West Allis-based Cream City Print Lounge drew a $10,000 investment from moguls during the latest episode of “Project Pitch It,” WISN-TV Channel 12’s Shark Tank-style show.
The startup brands itself as an interactive “print and sip studio,” a place where artists can learn to design and screen print apparel while enjoying alcoholic beverages.
Cream City Print Lounge owner and founder Rachaad Howard started his apparel and screen-printing business in 2019. Howard is well-known for his “Rep Wisconsin” apparel, which has paved the way for the entrepreneur to print clothing for Harley-Davidson, the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Store.
Festivals and vendor events have also helped Howard build his brand, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced Cream City Print Lounge to pivot.
After the death of George Floyd in a confrontation with a Minnesota police officer, Howard began designing shirts that promoted diversity and inclusion. The startup’s designs caught the eye of Kohl’s Corp., who began selling Howard’s T-shirts at select retail locations across the country.
“I commend you on how flexible and nimble you’ve been during this period and in a short period of time,” said Project Pitch It mogul David Gruber. “Are you attempting to scale locally or are your intentions to scale nationally?”
“We do want to franchise in the next few years, we’re just trying to get the footprint cemented in the ground first here and then we’re going to look at taking it nationwide,” Howard said.
Project Pitch It moguls were also impressed with Boosted Chews, a Madison-based startup that developed a solution for caffeine cravings during the day. The startup's bite-sized caffeinated chocolate chews deliver low doses of caffeine in four flavors: mocha, hazelnut, mint and original.
Co-founders Kit Chow and Aditya Parihar manufacture Boosted Chews in a shared kitchen in Madison. Boosted Chews sell their products nationwide through an e-commerce platform and locally through retail stores in Madison.
Each chew contains 33mg of caffeine while three chews is approximately one cup of coffee. Regular sized bags have six chews and jumbo bags contain 12 chews. The startup has generated $10,000 in revenue over the past 9 months, Chow said.
“We’re seeking funding so we can start working with a contract manufacturer and scale our distribution so that we can become the caffeinated chocolate brand of the Midwest and eventually the U.S.,” Chow said.
The startup also aims to become a broader foods brand with the capacity to roll out new product lines containing CBD or melatonin, Chow added.
“Are you specifically targeting a certain age group? Or who do you think is most prone to buy this product?" Project Pitch It mogul Jerry Jendusa said.
“We see a lot of opportunity at hospitals with nurses, Uber drivers, odd job and construction workers where you might not have the time and space to drink a cup of coffee,” Parihar said.
Boosted Chews was selected for the AmFam Award, which includes pairing the entrepreneur with a leader at American Family to support growth in all aspects of the business including marketing, IT, human resources and finance.
Project Pitch It moguls also found Milwaukee-based WorkShift to be a timely solution for the growing gig economy in the U.S. The startup developed a mobile app that connects independent contractors with organizations and companies in the health care and hospitality industries.
WorkShift started as a way for businesses in the hospitality industry to source talent on the fly. The startup has since tweaked its model to include the health care industry, allowing organizations to find workers who have been vetted for experience and relevant certifications.
WorkShift partner Bekki Yang says it is expected that independent contractors will compose 50% of the U.S. workforce by 2025, adding that the pandemic has exacerbated the growth of the gig economy.
“Not only are businesses having to rethink how they’re employing and how they’re going to operate, but workers are also deciding how they want to work,” Yang said.
Yang says WorkShift has developed an early version of its mobile app, adding that two organizations have expressed interest in piloting the app.
“To populate this database with these 1099 workers, it seems like a really large task,” Jendusa said. “It seems like you have to be focused or narrowed into a very specific vertical or specific geography.”
“You’re right, we’re talking about scaling and volume with the service industry,” Yang said. “Just for our pilot program alone, we have 50 applicants ready to work through our gig app.”
WorkShift awarded $5,000 and free mentorship programming at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Lubar Entrepreneurship Center.
BizTimes Media is a media sponsor for Project Pitch It.