If a measure was taken to gauge the energy level at Boost Lee’s Summit’s StartFest, the rate would come in somewhere between off-the-charts and outright giddiness.
Close to a dozen business owners and entrepreneurs presented their services and wares to a room full of potential clients, customers and investors Jan. 9 at the University of Central Missouri’s Summit campus where presenters were given 90 seconds to make their pitch – Shark Tank-style – after an hour or so of festive networking opportunities.
“I think that I have a special product that is geared toward a specialized niche that is underserved and under represented,” said Tammie Parish, owner of Pretty Christian, a fashion boutique geared toward Christian women. “I think that this is a great opportunity for the community as well as for the right mentor and right investor to come along and take this to the next level and make me the next big thing.”
Parish was one of 10 start-up-type entrepreneurs who made their spiel. Companies ran the gamut of industries represented, from physical fitness experts to graphic design aficionados to makers of garments that conceal legally-owned guns.
“This is what Boost (Lee’s Summit) is all about,” said Mark Dickey, vice president of the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce and facilitator for Boost Lee’s Summit, a Chamber-backed initiative to attract, create, support and accelerate new and existing businesses in Eastern Jackson County. “What we are trying to do here is give exposure to these new, fledging entrepreneurs. It’s very exciting from the standpoint that this is their first time around on the block for most of them. They’ve never had the opportunity to meet the public and the public to meet them.”
The evening began with entrepreneur demonstrations and networking, proceeded to the 90-second pitches and ended with more networking. In between was cheerful banter, sincere and interesting conversations and unabashed revelry.
The night, in essence, was more celebratory than competitive.
“I think this is great. Absolutely.” said Kathy Martin of KTS1, Inc. Martin and business partner Joe Mullins worked in tandem at StartFest. While Martin and her daughter manned their display booth for Tru Carry clothing for concealed firearms, Mullins pitched KTS1’s line of products. “Lee’s Summit has a really good base here and they have figured out a good way to reach out to the small business owners to support them. I think what they are doing tonight is really good.”
Molly Wichman, who along with husband, Robert Wichman, own physical fitness center Life Transformations – scheduled to open in February in Lakewood – said: “We have investors, my pitch is to customers. If you are looking for a small, exclusive gym and you want the whole fitness experience, then check out my gym.”
Added Dickey: “Really, what they need to do is they need to connect and network with our business community and with our business leaders; folks that can help them succeed in their business and that’s what this is all about tonight. It’s a little bit in the line of fire, but they’ve really been practicing hard and I have to congratulate each and every one of them.
“They’re my heroes. They’re the risk takers. They’re they ones that have a commitment and are really wanting to do something good for our community, but also for themselves.”