A $500 prize might seem like a small sum toward the big ideas presented Tuesday night at BriefSpace, 219 W. 10th, but the participants said the experience and connections held even more value.
Economic development group Grow Hays conducted its second Pitch It event at the co-working space Tuesday night. Five area entrepreneurs each had five minutes to present their business ideas to a panel of three judges, who then selected the winner of the $500.
The event is sponsored by the Robert E. And Patricia A. Schmidt Foundation.
“The main objective is to match ideas with resources to grow businesses in Ellis County,” said Doug Williams, Grow Hays executive director.
“We face some major challenges as a county, and entrepreneurship is one way we’re going to deal with them and overcome some of them,” he said.
The entrepreneurs making their pitches were:
• Tom Bird, owner of Grand Rental Station, who is developing an app to help employers find temporary workers.
• Kristin Blomquist, Assaria, owner of a line of high-end lotions, soaps and skincare products. She creates her own line, Kalliope, and recently purchased another.
• Miranda Schmeidler, Victoria. As a stay-at-home mom, she started a children’s distressed denim line called In Style Baby Legs. She has plans to start her own denim line and expand her business into wholesale offerings.
• Ethan Lang, a senior at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, offers financial advice on his blog and social media accounts, Making Sense of Finance. He has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram and recently started a YouTube channel.
• Morgan Pfiefier, Victoria, who operates Glam by Morgan, offering hair and makeup stylings for weddings, photo sessions and other events. She has plans to open a spa and retreat near Victoria.
While the three judges — Karen Dreiling, owner of The Furniture Look, Randy Walker, CEO of Bank of Hays, and Henry Schwaller, owner of Schwaller and Associates and Hays mayor — said it was tough to decide, they ultimately chose Schmeidler as the winner.
While free money is always good, Schmeidler said, she valued the help she’s gotten from Grow Hays.
“I really enjoyed the feedback from Doug Williams. He’s been really helpful,” she said.
The networking through the event will also benefit her business, she said.
“I’ve gotten to meet people that I’ve never met before that could help me out,” she said
Lang said he especially appreciated an opportunity to grow his business.
“As a high school student, I don’t have much of an income right now, so anything helps,” he said of the chance to win the $500. “And I think the main things are just the great exposure.
“I really understand that I’m young and have a lot to learn, and I feel like that’s going to do great things for me,” he said.
“It’s great to see young people getting into entrepreneurship,” Bird said.
Even though Bird has been in business for more than 20 years, he said he was glad to see Grow Hays creating Pitch It.
“It creates some excitement and then also we get people talking about it and then keep the snowball rolling,” he said.
Williams said Grow Hays will present Pitch It on a quarterly basis. The next event will likely be in July. The events are open to the public, and Williams said he’d like to see more people in the audience who can make connections with area entrepreneurs.
“It would be great to get more of the right kinds of people in the room as it relates to resources — bankers, investors, other entrepreneurs. We had some here, but I’d like to get some more so that we can help these people make this a reality for their ideas,” he said.
Anyone interested in pitching their ideas at a future Pitch It can apply at www.haysamerica.net.