Warren’s nonprofit culinary incubator, Hope & hosted Rhode Island’s first ever Pitch Room Competition, an extension of the Sam Adams’ philanthropic program, “Brewing the American Dream.”
Millions of Americans tune in each week to watch shows like “Chopped” and “Shark Tank,” where people in the former battle against one another for a culinary crown and people in the latter try to sell their ideas to established tycoons for a big cash investment to continue growing their dream.
Warren’s nonprofit culinary incubator, Hope & Main, brought the concepts together last week by hosting Rhode Island’s first ever Pitch Room Competition, an extension of the Sam Adams’ philanthropic program, “Brewing the American Dream,” which provides entrepreneurial coaching and capital to existing and aspiring business owners.
Contestants were tasked with pitching their business to a panel of judges, who along with the remote audience would then decide who had the most innovative and interesting pitch. The ultimate prize? Eight thousand dollars and bragging rights as the first Rhode Island Pitch Contest winner.
“It is such a great opportunity for exposure for food-prenuers throughout the Ocean State,” said Hope & Main founder Lisa Raiola in a press release announcing the event. “The event will bring high visibility to Rhode Island's vibrant, growing, and diverse food economy powered by small businesses."
The competition was broadcast remotely on Oct. 19 and included Amber Jackson of Black Leaf Tea & Culture Shop, Carissa Wills-DeMello of Town Farm Tonics, Debbie Wood of We Be Jammin’, Sam Chesebrough of Pickily, and Aura Fajardo of Aura's Chocolate Bar.
Fajarado was the ultimate winner, and said that the prize money will very tangibly help her small Cranston-based business grow larger.
“I knew this contest would help me share the chocolate love and represent the Rhode Island food scene to the viewers, which is a great honor,” she said. “Winning would also help me double the production capacity, investing in a chocolate melanger to create micro-batches of bean to bar, another dream of mine since the beginning, to try to cater to people with food allergies and dietary restrictions.”
“I entered the contest to showcase that individuals with disabilities can be viable business owners,” said Wood following the competition, adding that she started the Warwick-based business for her autistic son, Jason. “The experience was wonderful. I enjoyed meeting the other makers. We all received great feedback from all the judges that we can all take back and apply.”
The Center for Women & Enterprise RI, Johnson & Wales University, Centreville Bank and RI Commerce Corp. co-hosted the event.