They billed it as a Port Huron version of the show 'Shark Tank,' and one by one 10 budding entrepreneurs faced the glare of the spotlight to pitch their business ideas.
The GreenLight Port Huron Business Model Competition shone brightest Tuesday for Jeff Parr. He received $10,000 he's going to use for application development after he impressed a panel of seven judges with his idea called Sround Me, a Web application to share media such as photos and video.
'I think it's a great event to help local entrepreneurs start their businesses,' said Parr, who lives in New Baltimore.
'We're going to put it (the $10,000) toward application development and marketing our version 1.0 release,' he said.
Bryan Garrett gives his pitch on ManeScene.com Inc. during the GreenLight business competition Tuesday at the SC4 Fine Arts Theatre in Port Huron.(Photo: JEFFREY M. SMITH / TIMES HERALD)
Organizers of the competition awarded $15,500 in cash during the event. ManeScene.com, described by its developers Bryan Garrett and Matthew Stevanus as an Internet tool to help hair stylists, salon owners and customers manage their relationships, received the $5,000 second prize, and the Vault Sweet Shoppe, 902 Military St., Port Huron, received the $2,000 third prize.
Right Brain Engineering was the crowd favorite and received $500.
Entrepreneurs had 4 minutes to pitch their ideas to the judges and a crowd at the Fine Arts Theatre at St. Clair County Community College. The winners were announced during a reception at TechPort, 208 Huron Ave., Port Huron.
'I was nervous beforehand, but once I got up there, it was all right,' Garrett said.
'I used to be an auctioneer and I used to present at a lot of development conferences, so it was like second nature to me,' Stevanus said. 'It was good - 4 minutes to get your message across.'
Paul Jaques, director of student and community engagement for Spartan Innovations at Michigan State University, said Sround Me also received an automatic entry into the GreenLight Michigan event at March 31 in East Lansing to compete for $50,000 in prizes.
He said the idea of the competition is to plant new companies in the Port Huron area.
'If we give them these moneys, we don't want them to take off to Detroit, or to Lansing,' he said.
He said other competitions have been in Detroit, Flint and Petoskey.
'I think we had over 100 people in attendance,' Jaques said. 'The venue was phenomenal, the pitches were great ... Yeah, I'm happy.'
The pitches ranged from Internet-based applications to a yoga studio.
Robert Borsuk, and his wife, Karyn, were looking for money for their business, Create-a-Bot.
'We bring STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to the classroom,' Borsuk said.
'We use existing construction kits and all of our activities are robot-themed.'
He said he 'loved' his 4 minutes in the spotlight.
'I love the public speaking,' he said. 'I wish I had more time.
'I think it's a great promotion for both Port Huron and St. Clair County. It brings business awareness to us.'
Bailey and Paul Pionk were looking for money for their business, Hunters, Anglers, and Archers, at 2301 Gratiot Blvd., Suite C, Marysville. Bailey Pionk gave the pitch.
'There's no way I could have done it,' Paul Pionk said. 'I would have either stood there with a deer in the headlights look, or I would have rambled on.'
'It was nerve-wracking,' Bailey Pionk said. 'It's a big deal. It's a big opportunity for us, so it's nerve-wracking.'
Tim Kent, of Grosse Pointe, and Rick Warner, of Marine City, pitched using a racing trimaran sailboat to promote Michigan businesses through a venture called Shearwater Experiences.
'What we're trying to do is put together a sponsorship business,' Kent said.
The company would use sailboat technology being developed in France.
'It's always fun,' Warner said. 'One of the things we like about events like this is people who are not aware of sailing and sailing products learn about it.'
Tom Rutallie needed money to build a permanent obstacle course in St. Clair for mud runs.
'It really wasn't that bad because I was so pressed for time,' he said. 'They wanted us to do this in 4 minutes, and it's hard to do a business presentation in 10 minutes.
'It's good, it's good for the local economy to get people thinking.'
Bill Miskell, of Right Brain Engineering, pitched an idea to use a robotic baby harp seal as both a companion and monitoring device for elderly people.
He said the baby seal already exists in Japan. His company would import the seals and add electronic monitoring.
He called the competition, 'innovative, very interesting - it made me jump on it.'
Tina Frazier, marketing manager at the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County, said the intent of the competition was to create an atmosphere that encourages entrepreneurs.
'We're trying to address the entrepreneurial climate in St. Clair County,' she said. 'Start a company or grow a company.'
Contact Bob Gross at (810) 989-6263 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertGross477.
GREENLIGHT PORT HURON
1. Sround Me, $10,000
2. ManeScene.Com, $3,000
3. The Vault Sweet Shoppe, $2,000
Crowd choice: Right Brain Engineering, $500
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