"Catastrophe room" business idea wins $1,500 at Pitch@WCC competition

A business idea for a "catastrophe room," offering the cathartic chance to safely destroy objects before enjoying a relaxing craft or a healthy snack, was a big winner at the May 15 Pitch@WCC competition.


CatasRelief founders Kiara Patterson and Tiffany Avery won two prizes and a total of $1,500 at the competition, sponsored by The Entrepreneurship Center at Washtenaw Community College. The yearly business pitch competition has three categories for startups in different stages of development: "Start," "Build," and "Grow." The founders of CatasRelief won $1,000 in the "Start" category and a $500 audience choice prize.


The runner-up in the "Start" category was Michigan Yu-Gi-Oh Academy, with a $500 prize. The winner in the "Build" category was EnBiologics, taking home a $1,250 prize, and runner-up MyAaliyah won $625. In the "Grow" category, Love at First Try earned the $1,500 top prize, followed by runner-up No More Parties Music Festival, winning $750.


Patterson says she and Avery know a lot of people who are stressed, so they wanted to start a business that would provide relief through healthy coping mechanisms. The two flew to Dallas to try out an "anger room," which allows customers to vent their frustrations by destroying objects. But Patterson and Avery came home thinking they could improve on the idea.


"A lot of destroy rooms are focused on anger, and that's not something we want to promote or even be around," Patterson says. "We want to change anger into positivity or at least into motivation."


They plan to do that by adding restorative and constructive activities to the experience. CatasRelief's simplest package will offer customers a chance to blow off steam by smashing up furniture in a destroy room. But other packages will offer customers a chance to watch a video of their destroy room experience while doing some relaxing crafts in another room. Another package adds on access to healthy snacks and pressed juices.


Patterson says she and Avery originally went to the Entrepreneurship Center and looked into Pitch@WCC just for the business coaching that is part of the lead-up to the competition. They were surprised to take home the top prize in their category, competing against eight other businesses.


Patterson says she learned a lot in a "how to pitch" workshop and found a mandatory coaching session about the "why" of opening a business especially helpful.


"It really got us thinking about our mission and what we're going to do to affect and help people," she says. "Of course we want to make money, but our main concern is being able to help others."


Patterson and Avery are still seeking a location for their business. Patterson says she and Avery plan to use their prize money on marketing materials and building out their website, but in the meantime, anyone interested in following the progress of the business should follow CatasRelief on Instagram.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.


Photos courtesy of The Entrepreneurship Center.

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