Wisconsin-themed golf apparel business wins top prize on Project Pitch It

Kyle Herzog is co-founder of Green Bay-based Old Fashioned Golf. Image courtesy of Project Pitch It.

The top prize winner on this week’s episode of Project Pitch It has found a way to capitalize on Wisconsinites’ pride in their home state.

Entrepreneur Kyle Herzog is co-founder of Green Bay-based Old Fashioned Golf, a company that sells Wisconsin-inspired golf apparel.

The startup won this week’s Peg Ann and David Gruber Project Pitch It Award, worth $10,000.

Herzog and his two co-founders were inspired to start their company after finishing a round of golf in Green Bay and spotting another golfer wearing a hat with the shape of Wisconsin on it. He said there are two things disproportionately popular in Wisconsin: a love of golf and a sense of pride for the state.

“People have so much local pride. You go to any store and look around, how many people are wearing a shirt that says Wisconsin or ‘WI’ or is green and gold?” said Herzog.

One of Old Fashioned Golf’s most popular designs is a golf shirt called the I-43. The shirt features design elements from the Wisconsin state license plate. The company is looking to expand its retail presence in brick-and-mortar locations. Herzog also hopes to bolster the company’s marketing efforts.

Milwaukee-based Swathe Gifts took home a $5,000 cash prize, as well as support services including investment guidance and mentoring from UW-Milwaukee’s Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and “BreakthruU.”

Founder Elizabeth Mueller has created a reusable fabric gift wrap that takes the mess out of unwrapping gifts during family gatherings or holidays.

“When you’re wrapping a present with Swathe, you’re also giving a gift in a gift for a healthier planet,” said Mueller.

Swathe uses upcycled excess fabric sourced from local manufacturers in the creation of its products. Mueller said the company is having a difficult time meeting the demand for its products under its current manufacturing capabilities. She’s hired three people to help her sew Swathe gift wraps and is hoping to enter into more wholesale partnerships with local retailers.

Milwaukee-based Colorful Connections, a diversity recruiting and retention firm, won the We Energies/DNA Award, which includes a $1,500 cash prize and at least one session of mentoring in marketing from a company leader. The startup partners with clients to help them reach their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals.

Founder Morgan Phelps shared how Colorful Connections focuses on bolstering its clients’ ability to attract, retain, grow and sustain the work needed to foster an inclusive company culture.

“We partner with leaders to create diverse and inclusive teams with a built-to-last mindset, like the stability of a three-legged stool,” said Phelps. “I use the analogy because if you’re looking at a stool and there’s one leg that’s wobbly or broken, you don’t have stability. We look at DEI in that same respect.”

Phelps hopes to fundraise to create a search tool that will allow her to create a database of contact information for job candidates.

The next episode of Project Pitch It airs Saturday at 10:30 p.m. on WISN-TV Channel 12 in Milwaukee. BizTimes Media is a media partner for Project Pitch It.

Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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