Pitch Ypsi competition returns with $5,000 prize for entrepreneurs

The inaugural Pitch Ypsi $5000 business competition in March drew so much interest that organizers have already launched a second one.


Entrepreneurs in Ypsilanti who have an idea for a new business or for growing an existing business can submit a pitch at the Pitch Ypsi website by Sept. 15. Organizers will winnow the field down to the five best entries. Finalists will then pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at a finale event Oct. 26 at the downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market, 16 S. Washington St.


The person or team with the best pitch gets the cash prize along with free legal services from Varnum - Attorneys at Law, which is one of the sponsors of the competition.


"We're looking for businesses or even just ideas that will benefit the Ypsilanti area," says Kristin Gapske, director of the Entrepreneurship Center at Washtenaw Community College and member of the Pitch Ypsi organizing committee. The winning concept at the first competition was Grove Studios' proposal for artist rehearsal spaces made of shipping containers.


Gapske says the committee wants all competitors to succeed, so organizers will host workshops and pitch practices for the five finalists after they're chosen. Businesses that don't make it to the final five are also provided with resources for establishing or growing a small business.


Gapske says organizers learned a number of things from the first competition, so a number of things are different during this second iteration.


"We were surprised that 60 people applied, but so pleased. We are prepared for an even bigger applicant pool this year, so we bulked out our committee group to about 10 to 12 people this time," Gapske says.


She says committee members are a "big grab bag of people who want to help Ypsilanti grow," pulling from groups that range from small business owners to entrepreneurial support groups to colleges and universities.


The first round used a Facebook page to organize the competition, but this time around, there's a slick new website designed by competition sponsor Do:Better.


Organizers hope that the popularity of the competition will continue to grow.


"We'd like to get to the point where we're holding three of these a year," Gapske says.


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


Photo by Haiying Gan.

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