Written by Ryan Bentley of the Petoskey News Review.
HARBOR SPRINGS — Three recently launched Emmet County businesses received monetary boosts to help with growth and development efforts when selected as prize winners in Wednesday’s Emmet Entrepreneur Challenge.
This “pitch night” competition at the Lyric Theatre in Harbor Springs was geared toward operators of Emmet County-based businesses launched within the past two years, as well as prospective entrepreneurs intending to pursue a business concept locally. Organizers narrowed the field of applicants to 10 finalists — one of which dropped out of the competition — who were invited to make brief verbal pitches about their business models before a panel of judges and other interested community members.
The event’s prize winners included:
— Emmet Drones, a Petoskey venture owned and operated by Kurtis Damerow, which was awarded the event’s top prize of $7,750, as well as a three-month membership at The Loft Coworking Space in Harbor Springs and memberships in the Petoskey and Harbor Springs chambers of commerce. Damerow’s business offers services such as aerial photography, mapping and three-dimensional modeling, making use of unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) technology along the way
— Lakeshore Dry Goods, a Petoskey venture owned and operated by Pam and Christian Colby, which received the second prize of $3,000 plus a$251.50 people’s choice award determined by audience voting. The Colbys’ venture offers towels made from organic cotton, which are intended to provide a softness similar to that found in T-shirts and a more hair-friendly drying option
— Vine Ride, a Petoskey business owned and operated by Jeff Kozisek and Kassia Perpich, which took the third prize of $2,000. The business specializes in small-group tours of area wineries
Other entrepreneurs with business concepts or ventures featured in Wednesday’s pitch night included Scott Adams with Handy in Harbor, Rebecca Adams with Admired in Harbor, Joan Tiihonen with Bayfront Park Cafe, Alexis Fila with Beautiful Feet Dance Studio, Lisa Ernsberger with Healthy Human Oasis and Brett Behrendt with Orthoheat, whose business model was presented by Bill Mulder.
Georgia Abbott, a local business consultant serving on the Emmet Entrepreneur Challenge’s organizing committee, said providing outstanding business startups with resources to bolster their ventures was just one of the goals behind the event.
“It’s also a promotional event which tells the community about startups,” she said.
The Emmet Entrepreneur Challenge is one of four local-level pitch nights happening this year around the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance’s service region. The prize winners from the Harbor Springs event — along with high-ranking competitors from similar events in East Jordan, Cheboygan and Bellaire — receive invitations to vie for additional prizes at the regional “Grand Event” pitch night planned for Nov. 27 at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor.
Hannah Sanderson, a business attraction and growth specialist with Northern Lakes, noted that organizers were pleased with the level of interest the Emmet Entrepreneur Challenge drew when offered for the first time this year. She noted that premier sponsors Consumers Energy and the DTE Foundation played key parts in making the pitch nights around the region possible.
Other sponsors of the Harbor Springs event included the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, Boyne Highlands Resort, Stafford’s Pier Restaurant, Harbor Brenn Insurance, Insurance by Burley, The Cottage Company of Harbor Springs &Cottage Company Interiors and First Community Bank.
Judges for Wednesday’s event included Carla Gribbs of DTE Energy, Tim Petroskey of Consumers Energy, Tyler Gostinger of Petoskey Brewing, Jennifer Shorter of Grandpa Shorter’s and Katie Potts of Petoskey Cheese.