Area entrepreneur Pete Jungwirth of Wisconsin Rapids took home the top prize at the Central Wisconsin Hatch Regional Finale Wednesday night held at the Noel Car Barn, earning $5,000 for his company, Amira Learning. The company uses artificial intelligence technology to help teachers assess students’ reading levels and improve their skills individually, based on specific areas where they need help.
The HATCH Finale was attended by a crowd of nearly 250 people who watched six area entrepreneurs pitch their business to judges and vote for their favorite.
During the award presentations at the end of the evening, Fred Raasch of BrightStar incorrectly announced that Siren Shrub was the winner of the People’s Choice Award, determined by a popular vote of those attending. The correct recipient of the People’s Choice Award and $500 cash prize was Michael More and his product, the Scape, while Siren Shrub earned the BrightStar Entrepreneur Award and a $500 cash prize.
The Scape is a unique product that synchronizes aspects of mobiles, light projectors and sound machines to help babies and adults sleep. More and The Scape product won the local Hatch event in Stevens Point to qualify for the finale.
Siren Shrub, a company run by Layne Cozzolino and Mindy McCord from Stevens Point, produce a line of concentrated sipping vinegars made from locally grown fruits and herbs. Siren Shrub presented in June at the Wisconsin Rapids Hatch event and were selected as one of the “Wild Card” presenters at the regional finale.
Area entrepreneur and philanthropist John Noel kicked off the event with some words of encouragement for the six finalists. “Regardless of what happens tonight, pursue your dreams with every ounce of your passion,” he said. “And as your dreams become successful businesses, I encourage you to do what you can to give back and make the world better.”
The Central Wisconsin Hatch Regional Finale was hosted by Compass Properties and organized by BrightStar and the four organizations that hosted the preliminary local events; Portage County Business Council, Marshfield Chamber of Commerce, Entrepreneur and Education Center in Wausau and Mid-States Technical College – Wisconsin Rapids campus.
“Now in its second year, Hatch has become a good platform to connect early stage companies with a network of supporters,” said Thomas Shannon, BrightStar’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “The success of Wisconsin start-up companies helps drive the state economy and create quality, sustainable jobs for the 21st Century.”
Other entrepreneurs who pitched their business ideas included:
- Harald Tomesch from QikVin — a reusable wine bottle that preserves wine and keeps it fresh, as well providing a stylish container for serving the wine.
- Nick Coglianese from Key Collector Comics Mobile App — world’s first and only database and price guide that focuses exclusively on valuable, collector comic books.
- Evan Schuelke from Flip’n Easy–a plastic measuring scoop and funnel that lets you use only one hand to scoop and pour powered mix into any bottle.
BrightStar also held Hatch Regional Finales in Eau Claire for the Chippewa Valley Hatch program and in Racine for the Racine & Kenosha County Hatch program.
Top image: Fred Raasch of Brightstar (left) congratulates Pete Jungwirth on his victory. (Contributed photo)