Ten Local Entrepreneurs Compete at Crowdfunded Pitch Night

Inventive leaders of the community pitched their business ideas to a live audience in hopes of winning the much contested first place prize.

The Tom Tom Founders Festival and the i.Lab at the University of Virginia hosted the Crowdfunded Pitch Night.  On Wednesday, April 13th, ten local artists, activists, and entrepreneurs came to The Paramount Theater stage to share their most innovative and fresh ideas to members of the Charlottesville community. 

The Tom Tom Founders Festival held a number entrepreneurship competitions, such as the Crowdfunded Pitch Night.
The Tom Tom Founders Festival held a number of entrepreneurship competitions over the course of the week, including the Crowdfunded Pitch Night.

Each business or project leader(s) had just three minutes to share their vision with the live audience, vying for the spot as the crowd’s favorite contestant. The competitive night was filled with creative energy and excitement for contestants and crowd members alike. After the audience heard each pitch, they placed their bid for the most promising entrepreneur(s). The winner could take either the crowdfunded prize or a spot in the i.Lab, UVa’s startup accelerator program, which included a $5,000 expense budget, invaluable support from i.Lab’s technological experts, and mentorship from UVa’s Darden School of Business.

The competition was fierce, with ideas ranging from an eco-friendly bag fabric made of recycled products to a socially-conscious kilt company. Ultimately, the night’s winners were Clara Duffy and Leela Ghaemmaghami, two high school juniors who started Seniors Connect, a program to help older citizens use and understand technology. Duffy and Ghaemmaghami were inspired to create this project because their own grandparents frequently called them for help online. They soon realized there were over 7,000 other seniors in the Charlottesville area who could benefit from the same technological outreach and assistance. The two have not yet decided if they want the crowdfunded prize, which is a bit over $4,000, or the space in the i.Lab at UVa. 

Ewa Harr, from Little Planets, came in second place. Her nature inspired play-spaces and playscapes provide eco-friendly, fun, and safe alternatives for families who need a break from the busyness of live events and festivals.

Crowdfunded Pitch Night was hosted in The Paramount Theater.
Crowdfunded Pitch Night was hosted in The Paramount Theater.
The crowd trickles into the historic theater as the event starts to begin.
The crowd trickles into the historic theater as the event starts to begin.

The emcee of the night was the Vice-Mayor of Charlottesville, Wes Bellamy. From his overwhelmingly joyful, yet slightly out of tune, singing of “Happy Birthday” to Paul Beyer, the founding director of the festival, to his quick selfie-op with the two 16-year-old contestants, Bellamy’s vibrant personality captivated the audience members throughout the entire night.

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 Wes Bellamy, the Vice-Mayor and emcee of the night sings a very happy birthday to Paul Breyer.
Wes Bellamy, the Vice-Mayor and emcee of the night, sings a very happy birthday to Paul Beyer.
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Alan Wei pitches CloudGrow, an app that lets you grow anything you want anywhere you want, with the touch of a button.
Monica Green shares her vision for Precious Cargo Specialized Transport, LLC, a private transportation system to help members of the community who need special assistance in getting from place A to B.
Monica Green shares her vision for Precious Cargo Specialized Transport, LLC, a private transportation system to help members of the community who need special assistance in getting from point A to point B.

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Tamara Green and her company, Eco Urban Society, produces eco-friendly bags created from recycled products, such as water bottles and food service trays.
Becky Blanton founded the online magazine, The Virginia Entrepreneur, to let readers tap into and connect into a vibrant small business and entrepreneurial community.
Becky Blanton founded the online magazine, The Virginia Entrepreneur, to let readers tap into and connect with a vibrant, small business and entrepreneurial community.
 Giles Jackson woos the crowd by showing off a little upper thigh in introducing the Liberation Kilt Co. Jackson’s tartan textiles symbolize social causes, and 20% of Liberation Kilt Co’s proceeds go to NGOs.
Giles Jackson woos the crowd by showing off a little upper thigh in introducing the Liberation Kilt Co. Jackson’s tartan textiles symbolize social causes. 20% of Liberation Kilt Co’s proceeds go to NGOs.
Leela Ghaemmaghami and Clara Duffy created Seniors Connect to increase the technological proficiency among older citizens of Charlottesville through tutoring and IT assistance.
Clara Duffy and Leela Ghaemmaghami created Seniors Connect to increase the technological proficiency among older citizens of Charlottesville through tutoring and IT assistance.
Scott Goss pitches Home Stadiums to out-of-town sports fans who can change their room into a live-action, first-person view of their favorite team’s stadium.
Scott Goss pitches Home Stadiums to out-of-town sports fans who can change their room into a live-action, first-person view of their favorite team’s stadium.
Ewa Harr’s dedication to eco-friendly baby and children’s playspaces at festivals and live events stem was inspired by her own experiences as a mother. Little Planets creates these playspaces offering parents and their children a fun and safe experience at busy events.
Ewa Harr’s dedication to eco-friendly baby and children’s playspaces at festivals and live events was inspired by her own experiences as a mother. Little Planets offers parents and their children a fun and safe experience at busy events.
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Ian Pasquarelli and other founding members of The Kitchen Network detail the community benefit in assisting small food entrepreneurs with a shared-use kitchen space.
Audience members cast their votes for their favorite pitch.
Audience members cast their votes for their favorite pitch.
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The contestants congratulated themselves and their peers for sharing their entrepreneurial vision to their community.
Wes Bellamy declares Seniors Connect as the winner of the Crowdfunded Pitch Night.
Wes Bellamy declares Seniors Connect as the winner of the Crowdfunded Pitch Night.
The audience cheers for for Clara Duffy and Leela Ghaemmaghami, the winners of the night.
The audience cheers for for Clara Duffy and Leela Ghaemmaghami, the winners of the night.

Crowdfunded Pitch Night helps innovative entrepreneurs and creatives follow their dreams. However, the prizewinners are not the only winners of the night. At every Tom Tom Founders Festival, local investors and business consumers of the Charlottesville community come to to lend their support, resources, and potential network to pitches that catch their eye. The other nine contestants may not have walked away with the first place title, but they had the invaluable experience of sharing their bright ideas to the community. Every year, the Pitch Night sparks new entrepreneurial links, connections, and opportunities for each pioneer, truly making Charlottesville America’s Founding City.

 

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