A new socially conscious Jackson business plans to spend one of its cash prizes from Pitch Day the same way it uses its net proceeds from selling drinkware: to bring clean water to underserved areas of the world.
Powwater co-founder and CEO Jack Hartpence said the $1,000 from Pitch Day’s Bob Arndt Community Caretaker Award will go to Shishir, the company’s local partner in Bangladesh.
“We will put that directly into an impact project because that’s what it’s all about,” Hartpence said Friday, the day after the event at the Center for the Arts.
Pitch Day is an annual competition hosted by Silicon Couloir, a nonprofit that encourages entrepreneurship in the region through networking, education, mentoring and an angel network.
On Thursday, the eighth Pitch Day, Hartpence and five other entrepreneurs (see story below) gave eight-minute talks about their businesses, then fielded questions from six judges. They were hoping for prizes, recognition and potential connections with investors and advisors.
In the case of the caretaker award that Powwater won, the second part of the prize was an opportunity for mentoring through Silicon Couloir’s TEAMS program.
Hartpence said that will be valuable. Powwater, a social business — i.e., one created to solve a pressing problem — is brand new. It launched Aug. 2, selling water bottles and cups to fund water projects. It’s looking to branch into sustainably produced toilet paper.
“We see that as our next vertical and want to do it on a subscription model,” Hartpence said during his Pitch Day spiel.
Two other awards were presented Thursday.
Powwater also landed the event’s top prize, the $7,500 Panelist Choice Award decided by the judges, who all had investment and entrepreneurial backgrounds. Hartpence said no decision has been made on how to use that money.
He did say that the award affirms Powwater’s model, which rides a trend of people, particularly Gen Xers and millennials, wanting to buy products that change the world. It’s the consumer behavior of the future, he said.
“To win this prize validates us,” he said. “We’re creating a product that has a level of impact that hasn’t been seen before. We’ve always believed in it. This shows that other people believe in it too.”
Pitch Day spectators voted to give the Audience Choice Award to Mountainist, an e-commerce business that rents women’s mountain sports clothing and safety gear. The company won $2,500 plus six months’ use of The CoWork Space, a Silicon Couloir shared-office operation on East Broadway.
Founder Tana Hoffman said she felt good about telling the Mountainist story in eight minutes and having it resonate with Pitch Day spectators.
Mountainist is a “Rent the Runway” kind of business that started with snowmobiling and dirt bike clothes and accessories. During her time onstage Hoffman talked about a Kickstarter campaign this fall to fund the company’s expansion into fly-fishing and mountain biking items. Mountainist aims to be the place where women can get all their mountain gear at one time without having to clean it or store it.
“I’ve been rehearsing this presentation for three weeks straight,” Hoffman said in an email Friday. “I received so much positive feedback — from friends and also strangers — so for me, the real win was knowing I presented Mountainist just as I envisioned it.”
The six months at The CoWork Space is a huge benefit on top of the $2,500 cash award.
“I live in Alpine, so having access to The CoWork Space is going to be a game changer,” Hoffman said. “We have an awesome office down here, but I meet with a lot of people in Jackson (and I expect I’ll have a lot more now).
“I’m excited to have a professional space where I can hold meetings and get some real work done during my ‘in-between’ hours.”