On March 18, five Lakeland entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to a panel of judges to win up to $10,000 each in micro grant funding.
That night, $37,500 was awarded in total to help those five entrepreneurs purchase an asset for their business that will directly lead to growth.
The Launch Micro-Grant Funding Program was created to help these entrepreneurs scale their business operations by providing access to capital. Through funding and expertise, local financial institutions determine grant recipients by assessing a variety of factors through an application process and pitch competition.
Launch is facilitated by Catapult, an entrepreneur center located in the heart of downtown Lakeland helping businesses grow through space, education and resources.
The Launch application process began back in January as startup owners submitted their written applications. To apply, applicants must be 18 years or older and have a business between six months and five years old that is a “new/unique to Lakeland” idea.
This year’s Launch Pitch Night included pitches from five candidates in a variety of different business niches.
Rut Patel, owner of Voyager Industries pitched for $10,000 to purchase a Pergam Laser Falcon that will help them expand into the oil and gas industry, where they can find toxic gas leaks in order to prevent major environmental issues. Voyager Industries is an engineering company that helps energy, infrastructure and agricultural companies manage their assets through using drones to collect data that is then analyzed by artificial intelligence. This microgrant would help them to expand into a new market creating more jobs and potentially saving the lives that are lost each year due to gas leaks.
Wendy Johnson, owner of Krazy Kombucha, pitched for $10,000 to add a tap line to the fridge system in their new Dixieland retail location to increase production. Krazy Kombucha is Lakeland’s first kombucha brewery and a local staple. An added tap line will help them to scale in their brick and mortar by giving them the capacity to create and sell more products.
Brittany Bandi, owner of Sow Exotic pitched for a soil batch mixer dispenser that will streamline plant production by increasing production speed by at least 4 times and significantly decrease labor costs. Sow Exotic is a fully sustainable business that has eliminated the use of plastic and lets nothing go to waste. From their production to shipping, Sow Exotic prioritizes being an eco-friendly company through using only plant-based, plastic-free, biodegradable, compostable and recyclable packing materials.
Chase Sellmeyer, owner of Perigon USA, pitched for $10,000 for hardware and software that they currently rent. Perigon USA creates virtual reality training videos so that companies can eliminate the risk that would come with a live training around hazardous substances. Their goal is to simulate true to life training videos in a safe way that also yields high retention rates.
Kevin Racktoo, co-creator of the Dex: the gesture control glove, is a student finalist from Florida Polytechnic University who pitched for $2,500 to fund the research, development and prototyping of their early-stage product. He is in the process of developing a wearable gesture recognition glove that allows users to more easily interact with technology.
Each candidate presented their business pitch and plans to a live audience, then the judges deliberated and made a funding decision that evening. The checks were then presented in front of all of the attendees.
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