Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 4, 2014

Entrepreneurs pitch products

Dimples make a dent in competition

Mary Alford
The Independent

ASHLAND — Aspiring entrepreneurs in northeastern Kentucky on Tuesday had the opportunity to make their dreams of starting businesses become reality.

Seven groups participated in the Entrepreneur Pitch Competition at the Ignite Incubator on Greenup Avenue.

According to Mick Fosson, director of the Kentucky Innovation Network of Ashland, the event was modeled after the TV program “Shark Tank.”

The seven groups who participated were each given 10 minutes to present their business ideas to a group of potential “angel” investors, those who provide capital for startup companies. The judges included Jeff Elswick of Kentucky Farmers Bank, Steve Barfield, the franchised restaurant operator of the Ashland Chick-fil-A, Jason Suman of Citizens National Bank and Mike Thompson of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp.

The winners eceived cash prizes of $1,000, $500 and $100, as well as the opportunity to present their plans to the entire Kentucky Angel Investors Network in Frankfort.

First place went to Charlie Black, a retired veteran, who presented Dimple Bakeware. The product has Black’s patented dimples, which allow for easier baking.

Second place was received by Evolving Innovations and its advanced pill counter presented by Mike Potter, president and CEO, along with Johnathan Smith, CFO.

The third and final prize was awarded to Josh Blanton and Brian Riffle for their vision of I Was There, a scrapbook website of past concerts.

“It hasn’t set in yet, but I am happy,” Black said. “I don’t really know how to react to stuff like this; it doesn’t happen to me very often.”

The competition was the first stop on the a circuit. Similar events will be in Pikeville, Murray, Elizabethtown, Richmond, Covington, Lexington and Louisville this summer.

The event was sponsored by the Office of Entrepreneurship within the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, along with the Kentucky Angels Network and the Kentucky Innovation Network.

“Economic development in northeastern Kentucky involves a cultural change from ‘get out of school and get a job’ to ‘get out of school and create a business,’” Fosson said. “Local and regional entrepreneurship will allow us to create much needed businesses, jobs and wealth.”

The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development is the primary state agency in Kentucky responsible for encouraging new jobs and investment in the state.

The Cabinet successfully launched the Kentucky Angels Network last year. Kentucky Angels was established to bring new ventures and accredited investors together through monthly online meetings, providing investors access to form deals and partnerships with entrepreneurs statewide.

Membership is open to accredited investors in and outside the state who are passionate about investing in Kentucky companies.

“It’s common that if a business starts in a region, it will stay in that region,” Fosson said during the event. “And we want to have more here in Ashland.”

To learn more about Kentucky Angels, visit kyangels.net.

MARY ALFORD can be reached at malford@dailyindependent.com.