GRAND RAPIDS — Amanda Rostic on Wednesday night passed out samples of tea she batch brewed the night before with a special ingredient she thinks will set her product apart from other brands: hops.
Rostic, representing her company Kettle & Hops LLC, was one of 100 business owners presenting concepts during Start Garden Inc.’s Demo Day event, “The 100,” at GLC Live at 20 Monroe in downtown Grand Rapids. The annual competition showcases local entrepreneurs seeking key startup funding. This year’s event also marked the official launch of Tech Week in Grand Rapids.
This is Rostic’s second year of participating in The 100, and her business idea is more focused than last year, she said. Kettle & Hops originally included more products and Rostic sought to open a brick and mortar cafe. However, she now is focusing on just tea and is not tied to having a storefront.
“I don’t necessarily think a brick and mortar is necessarily the way to go. Why not be a kiosk inside of somewhere or split a space with someone else?” she said.
Adding hops to tea was a concept based in part on Grand Rapids’ well-known reputation as a beer city. Rostic also discovered that hops are known to possess stress-relieving properties that pair with the health benefits of tea.
The 100 event narrows down business ideas to 10 finalists, who each received $20,000 cash prizes on Wednesday night. While Rostic was not chosen as a finalist, she still wants to work on scaling up her business to sell her tea in grocery stores and directly to consumers.
Meanwhile, a restaurant for dogs, a sustainable furniture concept, and a dance company were among the wide range of ideas presented during Wednesday’s event. The 10 finalists that each received $20,000 in this year’s The 100 competition were:
- Photographer Isabel Lopez Slattery’s icolorstock;
- Vetr Health LLC, an in-home pet care company led by Sadoc Paredes;
- OPNR, a cloud-based music platform led by Andrea Wallace;
- Eyecare company Eye Can Do It LLC, led by Tammy Movsas;
- Navaro’s Tamales led by Marisela Sierra;
- Guilde, a pricing platform for home renovation projects led by Donovan Wright;
- Noodle Pig Ramen Shop, led by founder, CEO and Executive Chef Chris Wessely;
- Macbar ice cream company, led by Chris McKellar;
- All-In Sports LLC, a sports club led by Dominic Shannon; and
- Loopy, a line of sustainable houseware products led by Raju Patil.
Carolyn Allen, whose business Let’s Make Shoes took home a People’s Choice award, received a $2,500 cash prize. High school student Joel Pablo’s pitch for an auto detailing company also received a $5,000 cash prize.
Getting off the bench
The lead up to The 100 event required participants to submit their business idea to Start Garden by July 11, and 100 people were chosen to showcase their ideas for the Sept. 21 competition.
Start Garden has funded 567 ideas with small grants totaling $3.3 million in the 10 years the business incubator has been in operation, said Paul Moore, co-director at Start Garden. All of the companies that received funding are worth an estimated total of $500 million today, he said during the event.
Demo Day’s purpose is to get “people off of the bench and into the game with their idea,” he added.
The 100 is designed to grow the entrepreneur network in Grand Rapids and lead to new businesses launching their concepts. This year’s event also marked the beginning of Tech Week, a new initiative from economic development organization The Right Place Inc.
“We need to be a place where businesses of all kinds are thriving, but in particular in the tech industry because that is the future,” Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington said during the awards ceremony of The 100. “It transcends every industry and we need to be a place in West Michigan where when you think technology, you think Grand Rapids.”
Washington also applauded the diversity of entrepreneurs on Wednesday and how Start Garden is “intentional about helping all businesses but also businesses of color,” he said.
“When you look at the representation in our community, and particularly in the African-American community, we are 19 percent of the population in Grand Rapids, but in Kent County less than 5 percent of all businesses are owned by African-Americans,” Washington said. “We need to fix that, and this is one of the things that helps us to do it.”