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Pitches are hits with judges

Pitches are hits with judges

November 7th, 2017 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

Steve Merriott, left, won first place in this year's Show-Me Innovation Business Pitch Competition for his business MB Technology Plus. According to Kim Barnes, right, president/CEO of the Callaway Bank, each entrepreneur this year had a great idea and did well.

Photo by Helen Wilbers /Fulton Sun.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of Missouri Technology Corporation. The error has since been corrected in the text below.

Local entrepreneurs vied for seed money Monday during the Callaway Chamber of Commerce's second annual Show-Me Innovation Business Pitch Competition.

Four of the eight groups that entered walked away with a little extra jingle in their pocket.

"All of you who pitched did a phenomenal job," said Kim Barnes, president/CEO of the Callaway Bank. "All of your ideas were rock-solid."

Each competitor had 10 minutes to impress the judges. This year, Bill Anderson, of Missouri Technology Corporation, state Rep. Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit) and Donna DeLong, of Enterprise Development Corporation, comprised the panel.

Below, meet the beginning businesses and budding entrepreneurs who made the cut included:

First Place — MB Technology Plus

As first-place winner, Steve Merriott received $3,000 to develop his IT help desk business.

"We do more than just computer and phone repair," he said.

After graduating from William Woods University in May, the St. Louis native realized he could turn the IT help he'd been giving his family and friends into a business. By June, he'd launched MB Technology Plus in Fulton.

In addition to repair and troubleshooting, Merriott said the business offers tech-savvy consulting for individuals and businesses alike. For example, Merriott can help customers pick out which phone is right for them.

He plans on reinvesting his winnings back into his company to improve its marketing. The next step: by June 2018, Merriott hopes to have his own storefront.

"It's still based out of my house," he said.

Second Place — The Station

Keli Tate plans on growing her $1,500 into capital for The Station, her planned travel-themed drink hub.

"Frozen cocktails will be our main product, but we're planning on also offering craft beers and specialty IPAs," Tate said. "We're going to bring a new market to Fulton."

The Station began moving from a dream toward reality in April, when Tate began meeting with the Women's Business Center to formulate a business plan and pitch. She said placing in the pitch contest gave her confidence that her idea is sound.

"We're selling a travel experience," she said. "We ask two simple questions: Where would you like to go today, and how would you like to get there?"

Each drink will represent a destination, and the drink size represents a mode of travel. For example, Tate said, asking to travel to Phoenix by jet might order you a 40-ounce Mai Tai.

She dressed as a flight attendant for her pitch, and said she and her partner James Wagner already have airplane seats in their living room — just waiting to be installed.

Tate plans on putting her winnings toward a down payment for a loan, and hopes to open The Station by March 2018.

Third Place — Olive + Grace

Jana Rae Salmons hopes to use her $750 to develop e-commerce for her charity-minded boutique, located at 411 Court St. in Fulton.

"I appreciate the Chamber of Commerce and Callaway County for doing this," she said. "(Winning) brings a lot of pride, though I don't want to be prideful — I have to watch that."

Her boutique opened in August and had its official grand opening on Friday. Olive + Grace is stocked with personality-filled, fashionable clothing for adult women.

Each quarter, Salmons selects an area nonprofit that helps women and children, and donates 10 percent of her growth sales for that quarter to it.

Audience Choice — Wheel Barrel

This family-founded business hopes to hit the road soon — literally.

According to pitcher Lori Doerhoff, Wheel Barrel will be a wine and beer truck.

"Primarily, we want to rent it to private events such as weddings," she said.

Appearing alongside her to pitch were her brother, Brady Montcalm, and sister-in-law Brittany Montcalm. The three plan on putting their $250 winnings toward purchasing a truck.

"I'm pretty excited we won," Brittany Montcalm said. "The fact that it was the audience choice award means people like the idea."

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