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story.lead_photo.caption Owners Jeff and Rita Huff are shocked as they make their way to the front of the room Tuesday to accept a $5,000 check during the Pitch It & Win It competition at Capitol Plaza Hotel. The Huffs competed with four other business as they proposed how they would like to expand their company, RJ's Real Italian Ice, with the winnings. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

A Jefferson City company that produces non-dairy frozen desserts is this year's winner of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce business pitch competition.

RJ's Real Italian Ice won $5,000 in the Pitch It and Win It competition held Tuesday during the chamber's Business and Lifestyles Expo at Capitol Plaza Hotel.

The contest, which has been held for eight years, is aimed at individuals or newly established businesses. Existing businesses are eligible but only if they have received less than $150,000 in funding and earned less than $150,000 in gross revenues by Oct. 1.

The funds for the contest come from sponsor Rural Missouri Inc.

Chamber Existing Business Manager Shaun Sappenfield said they had 12 entries, which were pre-screened, and they were narrowed down to five finalists.

RJ's Real Italian Ice owners Jeff and Rita Huff have been in business for three years and have been selling their all-natural products at community events, through street-side vending and at special occasions such as weddings.

During their presentation Tuesday, the Huffs said they plan to package their products in pint containers, and their pilot project would be to have their products sold in two supermarkets, two health stores and one convenience store.

The other businesses in this year's competition included RN Mobile Drug Testing. This Jefferson City company provides on-site drug and alcohol testing for local companies and has clients such as ABB, Unilever and Scholastic. Owners Kevin and Rose Nelson said they are the only local drug tester that will come to a business to do testing on site.

Also presenting was Ladonna Jones, who is looking to start Avalon Float Center to offer zero-gravity flotation therapy in pods or tanks to help people relieve anxiety and stress. She said there are no businesses offering this in Jefferson City, but there are such businesses in Columbia and Osage Beach.

Lindsey and John Roush are looking to start a composting business, Reduce the Rubbish, which would provide curb-side residential and commercial food waste compost services as a way to reduce trash going into area landfills.

The final presenter was Protiv, a business founded by University of Missouri students John Rhea and Christian Hake. Described as an "Uber for odd jobs," the idea is to create a mobile application that would allow area residents to connect with college students to do various jobs.

Sappenfield and the judges for the contest urged those who didn't win to continue to work on their ideas and come back next year.

"This is a great way to find out who are the new business people here in town, connect with them, and try and get them the resources they need to be successful and limit their mistakes," Sappenfield said. "We can give them someone to lean on as they're starting out, if they need it."

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