New pitch competition offers $5,000 prize for eastern Washtenaw County entrepreneurs

The organizers of a new Ypsilanti-centric business plan pitch competition hope to generate excitement for entrepreneurs setting up shop or expanding operations into eastern Washtenaw County.

Pitch Ypsi $5000 will offer five finalists a chance to make their case to a panel of five judges for a shot at winning $5,000 during a Pitch Night event on March 8 at SPARK East. Local entrepreneurs have until Feb. 13 to apply.

"There's a lot of great things that happen in Ann Arbor, and we would like to have that kind of energy on the east side in Ypsilanti," says planning committee member Angela Barbash.

The event's planning committee also includes Ypsilanti mayor Amanda Edmonds and SPARK East business accelerator manager Joe Licavoli. Barbash says the committee is looking for startups or existing organizations that are excited about locating in Ypsi, with "bonus points" going to those who can show how they will make Ypsi a better place.

"We're not saying, 'Hey, everybody who submits needs to be in social enterprise,' but if you can demonstrate how your product or service or your company is going to impact the community in a positive way, then that's certainly going to put you ahead of the pack," she says.

The competition is modeled after Grand Rapids' popular 5x5 Night events, in which five judges put up $1,000 in prize money each. Barbash and Edmonds lobbied to have one of the contest's judge seats represent more members of the community, so four judges will contribute $1,000 apiece and the remaining $1,000 will come from 10 individuals donating $100 each. As of last week, 18 submissions had already been received.

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
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