2020 Launch Pitch Night
2020 Launch Pitch Night
November 20, 2020

Five Lakeland startup businesses were awarded a total of $37,500 on November 12 at Catapult’s LAUNCH Pitch Night. The funding will be used to purchase an asset that directly leads to the growth of each business.

“I’m so excited for this opportunity to scale my business in the direction that I want it to go. My relationships here at Catapult will help propel me in the future,” said Clay Canning, owner of Canning Creations.


LAUNCH is a microgrant program facilitated by Catapult that began in 2016. To date, LAUNCH has hosted 12 pitch nights and awarded 29 grant winners with more than $200,000 in funding. Local financial institutions select the winners and award the funding each year.


Out of all who applied, the finalists, Wendy Kowalski, owner of Caring Innovations; Adam Whelchel, owner of Spark Bookkeeping; Clay Canning, owner of Canning Creations; Brenton Huffaker, owner of Aerocommerce; and student finalist, Jack Miller, owner of Pock IT, were selected to pitch their business plans to judges in hope of securing funding to scale their businesses.

All of these businesses received a microgrant at the Fall 2020 LAUNCH Pitch Night, hosted at Catapult. People were able to attend in-person or online to support the entrepreneurs.

“Launch has been a great experience and I’m so thankful for this as I move forward. It’s a great experience for me and it really motivates me that people have faith in me and my company, said Jack Miller, owner of Pock IT. 


You may have seen Clay Canning, owner of Canning Creations, more commonly known as Screen Skinz, on your social feeds over the past few months. He had viral success on TikTok selling custom engraved screen protectors. Canning was awarded a machine to utilize in the Catapult Maker Space, and up to $10,000 in matching funds towards securing licenses through Fanatics. Click here to watch his pitch!

Student finalist, Jack Miller, a Southeastern University master’s student and athlete, also owns Pock IT, an activewear apparel line. Miller created athletic wear with built in pockets to eliminate the need for an armband while running. The $2,500 microgrant will help Miller secure a patent. Click here to watch his pitch!

Caring Innovations created the Caring Cradle, a product that gives families of stillborn babies more time to say goodbye. The owner, Wendy Kowalski, began to see a demand for a smaller cradle for babies stillborn around 20 weeks. Their $10,000 microgrant will help them get an injection mold for a smaller bassinet to add to their product line. Click here to watch her pitch!

Aerocommerce, an aircraft salvage company owned by Brenton Huffaker, sells used aircraft parts to the general aviation market. Huffaker was awarded $5,000 to create a website for Aerocommerce as an online selling platform to help eliminate the fees inherent to selling on platforms like eBay. Click here to watch his pitch!

Adam Whelchel, owner of Spark Bookkeeping, helps businesses with their bookkeeping through technology, support and training. To scale his business, Whelchel pitched for $10,000 to purchase the equipment that Spark needs to scale, and to hire an employee to increase the volume of work Spark has the capacity to take on. Click here to watch his pitch!



Catapult is a 501 c3 nonprofit entrepreneur center located in downtown Lakeland that fosters the growth of startups in the community through resources, education and space. Their building features a commercial kitchen, coworking spaces, office spaces and conference rooms.


Business owners who are interested in applying can review the requirements and details on our website, then, if they think their business is a great fit, they can submit a written application. In this first step of the process, applicants explain what their business is, how it is unique to Lakeland, how much funding they are pitching for and what that money will go towards.

The judges review every application and select the finalists to pitch their business idea in front of a live audience at LAUNCH Pitch night. The judging team is composed of local financial institutions and seasoned entrepreneurs.

The finalists then develop their pitches and present them at a practice pitch night to receive feedback. A week after refining their pitches is pitch night when the finalists present to judges in a closed door session where the judges dive deep into their financials, the logistics of their business and the direction they want to take their company in the future. Afterward, the finalists present their pitch to the judges and a live audience. Following the presentations is a brief Q&A portion where audience members can ask the finalists about their business while the judges deliberate. That night, the winners are announced with the check presentation to end the night.

If you’re interested in applying or learning more about LAUNCH, applications are currently open. You can find more information and the application HERE.

This blog was written by the team at Catapult Lakeland, an entrepreneur center in Lakeland Florida that exists to foster the growth of startups by providing education, resources, community and space.

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