Eleven entrepreneurs pitched their ideas for new businesses Saturday at Startup Jefferson City's annual Pitch It & Win It competition.
Now in its sixth year, the event was kickstarted by a group of small-business owners to reach other entrepreneurs in the community. First-, second- and third-place winners received a small amount of seed money and also got feedback and mentorship from judges, attendees and other presenters.
This year's first-place winner was Justin Neihart, with United Landscape Design on Country Club Drive, who had the idea of putting in a horticulture classroom at the business. The first-place winner got $2,500 in seed funding.
"We would like to utilize resources we currently provide, which is consulting and design techniques," he said. "We would like to present that in the form of a lab for families that want to know more about what's going on in landscaping."
Neihart said the classroom would be located at the business, and they hope it can be up and running by mid-spring.
Second place went to Angela Whitman, owner of Flowers From Nowherelse. The second-place winner was awarded $1,500. Whitman hopes to continue to grow her business, which has been getting noticed across the country thanks to social media.
"I've been working for this moment for a long time," she said. "I'm just following what I love. This event was awesome to allow someone like myself to come in and talk about my products. I didn't come in here looking to win so I'm excited."
The Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce's Startup Jefferson City initiative and Rural Missouri Inc. partnered to host the event in the Capital Event Center on Ohio Street.
Pitch It & Win It began six years ago when local business leaders, including staff members at the chamber, looked for ways to find and connect the small pool of entrepreneurs in Jefferson City.
"What we were trying to do is first identify who these individuals are and lend them support up and above what was in place," said Shaun Sappenfield, manager of existing businesses for the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce. "We put together a program to engage these entrepreneurs and support them."
Ten to 15 people participate each year.
Each participant had 10 minutes to present an idea and then 10 minutes to answer questions from a panel of local business professionals.
Sappenfield acknowledged the sums are not life-changing but do help ideas get off the ground. The point of the event, he said, is to allow entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas to other small-business owners and to connect with other entrepreneurs in Mid-Missouri.
"It's not about the money," he said. "We want to provide the knowledge to get these people to either make a decision and move forward and help them with that decision through knowledge or to say 'This doesn't look like a good idea.'"