ORONO, Maine — After the regular season and countless 'pitch practices,' four Maine entrepreneurs presented at the Big Gig Pitch-Off Finale Tuesday night.
Like all the previous rounds, the finale was held virtually. Big Gig coordinator Emma Wilson said in previous years, the pitch competitions were held at local breweries and restaurants. Due to the pandemic, however, this year's pitch competitions were broadcasted on Facebook and Zoom.
“Actually, it went surprisingly well," Wilson said. “We’re now getting 20-plus applicants for every pitch-off that we have.”
Wilson, who made it to the finale as a competitor years ago, said the virtual events have also made the program more available for Mainers across the state and not just for those in the Bangor area.
“Since it’s increased our reach, more people are connecting with these entrepreneurs so it’s helping you know, build those connections with those entrepreneurs and help grow those companies," Wilson added.
The panel of judges Tuesday included:
- Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, the president of the University of Maine at Orono and at Machias;
- Joshu Henry, the president and founder of GO Lab;
- Gavin Robinson, the senior relationship manager vice president at Bangor Savings Bank
After winning their regular-season pitch event, Cheri Scott, Stephanie Noyes, and Joshua Kim all advanced to the finale and had the chance to win the $5,000 cash prize.
Hannah Marr was the fourth contestant in the finale and made it into the last round as a wildcard. The North Carolina native went to school in Georgia and now works for L.L. Bean and lives in Vacationland. She is integrating herself in the Maine business world.
“I have been blown away by the community," Marr said.
She added she came up with the idea for her web-based application 'Clique in Style' when she helped plan her best friend's wedding.
“[Clique in Style helps] brides who are in the wedding planning process have confidence in the ability to be creative in their wedding design, specifically with their bridal party," Marr added. “I want to help people to find the confidence that they need for their wedding day.”
She heard about Big Gig just days before her first event but said the whole experience has been worth it because of all the feedback she got from other entrepreneurs and the connections she's been able to make.
“It’s just crazy to see how everyone works together and how everyone is supporting one another," she added.
The website is set to launch in July and Marr already has a team of developers ready to oversee the platform and be ready to work on any user issues.
Another pitcher, Cherie Scott, grew up in Mumbai, India, and shared a love of cooking with her late mother. Scott said she missed the flavors and aromas of home when she moved to Maine and settled in Boothbay 14 years ago.
Scott started a blog called 'Mumbai to Maine' and gave other foodies the chance to connect with diverse dishes and in her case Simmer Sauces from India. The blog became so popular, Scott created a podcast. Then she took it one step further.
“What else can we lose during this pandemic? Let me put myself out there, let me put this product on the market," Scott said.
Her three sauces, Caldine, Saag, and Makhani, give Mainers the chance to literally taste the culture of Scott's home country. She said that's what diversity is all about.
“This is the most incredible set of people in the state of Maine who really want to embrace diversity," Scott said.
The Big Gig platform is helping these entrepreneurs on their journey. While it is a competitive sector, all these Mainers are in it together.
“It’s just crazy to see how everyone works together and how everyone is supporting one another," Marr said.
“[Maine is] such a great incubator and playground to launch a product like Mumbai to Maine simmer sauces," Scott added.
Three of the four finale contests were women and Wilson said that was "super exciting" for the event. She added next year the pitch-offs will be held in a hybrid model as the events will return to in-person but with a virtual option for entrepreneurs who aren't from the area.