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Published in Economic Development

10 entrepreneurs awarded $20K each at Start Garden competition

BY Friday, October 01, 2021 04:18pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Food, technology and recycling startups were among the 10 winners to receive individual $20,000 awards at this year’s 100 competition hosted by Grand Rapids-based business incubator Start Garden LLC.

Start Garden officials say this year’s event was competitive after more than 650 entrepreneurs submitted ideas to be selected for funding. In August, the organization selected 100 finalists as part of the first phase that distributed $1,000 each to the top 100 businesses. 

Laurie Supinski COURTESY PHOTO

Start Garden’s Demo Day on Wednesday, held at GLC Live at 20 Monroe, narrowed those down to 10 winners who each received $20,000.

“The competition was fierce this year, and the energy at Demo Day was like none other,” Start Garden Co-director Laurie Supinski said in a statement. “There’s so much creativity and hustle in the air, which we intend to continue to help foster in addition to those that were selected as winners. We are so encouraged by the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Grand Rapids and know that so many of these projects will make a real impact.”

The 10 winners and their companies were:

• Kimberly Slakeu of Luxe Artisan Preserves LLC, which produces artisanal preserves such as jams and marmalades

• Laura Vaughn of Mannerist LLC, a startup aiming to bring a new tableware line to market

• Michael Hyacinthe and Kevin Kamarad of Wimee’s Words, a tech startup with an interactive story-building app

• Casey Fechter of Kozi A.L.E., an insurance tech platform automating the additional living expense (ALE) process that helps people relocate after being displaced from their homes

• Kristi King of Perfect Circle Recycling LLC, a local recycling company that diverts waste from industrial food suppliers

• Paola Carlson of Pochis Sweet Design LLC, a local artisanal dessert business

• Jeremy Smith-Evans of Ascending, a platform that pairs in-demand software development engineers and helps companies better retain them

• Damien Allen of Freedom Elevated Defense Solutions LLC, which is launching a virtual gun safety range to make training more accessible

• Lee Constantine of Bookscore.ai, which develops artificial intelligence to help publishers better manage their caseload of book proposals

• Alita Kelly of South East Market LLC, a Grand Rapids-based market with healthy food options for underserved populations. 

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