A stream of “good jobs” and “good lucks” trailed Max Robbins and Peter Silverman out the doors of Essex Jct.’s Green Mountain Harley Davidson on Monday, as did $1,000 and a greater opportunity to grow their small business, Majorwise.
The two senior University of Vermont business majors took the stage July 31 with over 100 attendees looking on — five of whom also pitched their business platforms.
Part of the third annual Road Pitch event, motorcyclists with investing, entrepreneurial and business advisory experience rode their way to Essex Jct. for the first scouting spot of a five-day, 10-stop trip around Vermont.
“The six pitchers were the deepest we’ve had,” said Greg Morgan, chairman of Essex’s economic development commission. “Each business has a chance to succeed, and I don’t think that’s always been the case.”
Majorwise, an online platform to connect high-schoolers with employers for internships and job shadow and volunteer opportunities, placed on top but were among a group of diverse pitches.
First up Monday was Burlington resident Betsy Nesbitt, who founded Flyaway Yoga with a goal of making onsite yoga easy and smart. After traveling for work sporadically for over a year and unable to sustain a steady yoga habit, she sparked the idea on her honeymoon. Bolton Valley resort’s yoga studio is one of her success stories.
Up next was Prince Awhaitely of Burlington who pitched his Healthy Kingdom Juice Company. With a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, the entrepreneur uses sprouts to make a nutritional drink that initially served as a hangover cure for his college friends, he said to a laughing crowd.
Awhaitely said he’s feeding off a trend to consume living foods, similar to the popular drink kombucha. Right now, he’s looking to grow his online retail. In years to come, he aims to open numerous juice bars in the area.
Also on a health kick, seven-year Essex Jct. resident Rachel Collier presented her beverage, bone broth from The Simmering Bone.
A trend on the west coast since 2014, bone broth is a healthy product that Collier always had to ship east. Of the 21 retailers in the country, 18 are out west and the other two are in Boston. So, she set out to make it herself.
Three years since her start, Collier explained how the broth aids in digestion and killing allergy symptoms, as well as its positive effect during pregnancy. She played up her lifelong status as a Vermonter, saying it’s a unique market. Her five-year vision is to make $500,000 in annual sales.
For Collier, Monday was a special milestone. It was her first time publicly portraying her idea.
“So for the first time, I’ve just been inundated with support from all these amazing local Essex businesses,” she said of the connections she’s already made as a result.
Courtney Reckord, another woman innovator from South Burlington, showcased her newest jewelry line, which uses U.S. Geological Survey data to make pieces representing national parks and ski resorts.Her slogan? “Jewelry with a sense of place.”
Reckord, an art teacher at Milton High School, asked audience members to picture themselves on vacation. Most people who buy souvenirs end up getting junk, she said. Her jewelry, she said, is a unique alternative.
Essex resident and UVM professor Jeff Frolick provided another distinctive pitch, but in the energy sector. His business, Packetized Energy, limelights a clean energy future by coordinating energy resources — like water heaters and HVAC systems — and energy storage on a scalable platform.
Frolick said he and his two co-founders are looking for $75,000 in investments to add to the $100,000 they have banked.
Each seven-minute “Shark-Tank”-like pitch ended with questions from the audience. Here, Frolick said Packetized Energy’s bottom-up approach sets it apart from competitors.
Also in the audience was Essex Rep. Betsy Dunn, selectboard member Irene Wrenner, village trustee Elaine Sopchak and others from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
They didn’t miss a beat in chatting with the entrepreneurs. After each pitch, every rider filled out a score sheet, rating the six business platforms.
Shortly after, Morgan announced Majorwise as the winner of Road Pitch’s $500 prize, which Green Mountain Harley Davidson matched. Come October, the UVM duo heads to the statewide Road Pitch, which prizes $4,000.
While the money is an added bonus, Robbins and Silverman said they entered the competition to make more connections. They asked the audience to introduce them to high schools to continue growing their networks in Vermont and beyond.
Plus, they went home with a “Biker Bear” from Vermont Teddy Bear — a prize that brought smiles almost as big as the two checks did.
As for Essex, Morgan said sparking a supportive environment for innovators and their ideas is key. According to him, each of the six entrepreneurs have the potential to expand and grow.
“They put their heart and soul into it,” he said.