It was a cross between Shark Tank and speed dating.
Local entrepreneurs had seven minutes to pitch their ideas to investors and find a match.
Some brought prototypes and PowerPoint presentations. Others seemed to be winging it.
Most were casually dressed.
Pitches included a machine that pulverizes recyclable plastic, handmade skis, and a breed of hybrid cattle that could put Vermont natural beef into markets from Boston to New York City.
Welcome to the second annual Fresh Tracks Capital Road Pitch, a four-day motorcycle tour of Vermont that stopped at Charlmont Restaurant in Morrisville last Thursday.
A gang of “business bikers” — investors, entrepreneurs and business advisers — rode around the state and stopped in various towns to listen to entrepreneurs pitch their business concepts.
Last year, riders listened to 35 pitches, according to Road Pitch co-founder Cairn Cross.
This year, with eight stops from Brattleboro to Grand Isle, the riders listened to 45 pitches.
A $450 Riders Choice Prize and a Vermont Teddy Bear Company biker bear were awarded to one pitch at each of the eight stops.
The event was open to established and start-up businesses. Local event organizers, including the Lamoille Economic Development Corp., screened the applicants and selected and coached those chosen to make presentations.
Cross isn’t sure how much capital businesses raised at last year’s Road Pitch, because any investments are conducted privately between the investors and the entrepreneurs.
During the Morrisville event, the investors handed out plenty of advice during the question-and-answer periods following each pitch. They also filled out detailed feedback sheets.
Raise the price
Vin Faraci produces custom inlaid wood skis at his Hyde Park business White Room Skis Ltd. He wasn’t looking for investors.
“I’m here to ask for advice,” said Faraci, who works his business part-time and manufactures about 15 pair of skis each year.
The investors were happy to oblige. One suggested that he raise the price of his skis from $875 to $2,500 to increase their perceived value as a luxury item.
Another told Faraci he should promote the high performance of his skis to differentiate them from similarly crafted artisan skis that are better suited to hang on a wall than glide down the slopes.
Cattle farmer Mark Boyden was also looking for advice. He’s developed and trademarked Red Velvet, a tender, low-fat hybrid beef cattle raised on grass and non-GMO feed. He wants to contract with farmers from throughout Vermont to raise the cattle in their unused barn space, allowing him to increase his herd from several hundred to a few thousand.
“I just want to get my idea out,” Boyden said.
The investors suggested that he decide exactly how big he wants his herd to become and how broadly he wants to market his product before he starts renting barn space.
Not so enthusiastic
Investors didn’t mince words when they thought a product would be a dud.
Andrew Mosedale asked for a $45,000 investment for Mismakers, a machine he invented to shred recyclable plastic into small pieces that could be stored and sold when the demand for plastic is strong.
But investors pointed out that commercial businesses and institutions would soon run into a storage problem and private homeowners would be unlikely to pay for a shredder when they could recycle their plastic waste for free.
Investors seemed to like Green Match Online, a smartphone app aimed at helping young teens to appreciate the outdoors and encouraging them to donate money to conservation groups.
But they were unconvinced that parents would allow their children to use it to make donations, especially if they had to finance the donations.
Likewise, investors weren’t optimistic that audiophiles would spend $4,000 on Wolf Audio Systems, a high-end home audio product that can connect laptops, televisions and other technology in one room.
Heidi Clute, owner of Clute Wealth Management in South Burlington and Plattsburg, N.Y., wasn’t looking for an idea in which she could invest. Instead, she saw the Road Pitch as a means to enjoy riding her motorcycle while sharing her professional knowledge.
“There are a lot of great ideas,” Clute said. “I’m here to give financial guidance and help people make connections.”
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