REV Birmingham hosts Big Pitch finalists at Thomas Jefferson Tower

REV Birmingham hosts Big Pitch finalists at Thomas Jefferson Tower
Ten finalists will compete for $25,000 in the Big Pitch startup capital competition. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

The newly renovated Thomas Jefferson Tower will be the site of REV Birmingham’s Big Pitch on Nov. 12 as 10 small businesses compete for $25,000 in startup capital.

The 10 finalists will pitch their business plans in the popular “Shark Tank” style to a panel of judges, potential investors and a live audience.

Up for grabs is a $15,000 first prize as well as $5,000 each for second place and the people’s choice. Title sponsor PNC Financial Services Group is providing the prize money.

“We first worked with REV as presenting sponsors for REVIVE, a program created to help spur economic activity in specific areas of the downtown city center. The REV program featured a series of pop-up shops, restaurants, activities over several weeks,” said Brian Bucher, PNC regional president. “It was such a success for our city and for entrepreneurs that the following year when REV approached us with the Big Pitch, we immediately asked to serve as presenting sponsor.”

The grand prize winner will also receive a suite of professional services from other Big Pitch sponsors.

Deon Gordon, director of business growth at REV Birmingham, said unlike other pitch competitions, the Big Pitch includes a variety of startups and adds the audience participation component.

Deon Gordon of REV Birmingham talks about the Big Pitch from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“If you think about your pitch competitions, traditionally people associate that with the technology sector, but we really don’t look at it in terms of capitalizing your lifestyle and your creative businesses – those small businesses that really give a city its vibrancy, its character, its soul and its authenticity,” Gordon said. “When you look at Birmingham’s revitalization, so much of it is based on those businesses – your restaurants, your retailers, your bakeries and your coffee shops and even your neighborhood service concepts.”

The 10 finalists competing Saturday are:

  • Organically Yours, pitched by Antionette Neeley, is a locally based organic baked goods company looking to open a café and production kitchen in East Lake.
  • Party Boutique Kids, pitched by Danielle Hines, puts on tailored, uniquely themed kids’ entertainment parties.
  • Studio Steel, pitched by Elle Nelson, is a pole fitness studio offering a fun way to increase health and improve strength.
  • Wholesome Soda Co., pitched by Eric Holsomback, is a local, hand-crafted soda made with natural ingredients and a hint of sweetness.
  • Tropicaleo, pitched by Isabel and Gabriel Marrero, is a fresh-casual restaurant concept that will bring Puerto Rican food with an island mood to the Magic City.
  • Pure Imagine Candy Shoppe, pitched by Jerethia “Recey” Blake, is a mobile candy shop with custom options and unique charm.
  • Kinetiq Movement, pitched by Matthew Hamilton and Ethan Voce, is an obstacle park and indoor challenge facility for adventurous athletes.
  • Domestique Coffee, pitched by Nathan Pocus, is a nitro cold-brew coffee experience using fair-trade Haitian-sourced coffee beans.
  • Rainy Day, pitched by Saramia Arenas, is a handmade retail collective focused on fostering creativity and supporting local makers.
  • Left Hand Soap Co., pitched by Soapy Jones and Erik Hanson, makes high-quality, all-natural soap and skincare products with locally sourced ingredients.

“It’s an opportunity for them to really get capital access,” Gordon said.

The newly renovated Thomas Jefferson Tower will be the site of this year's Big Pitch. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)
The newly renovated Thomas Jefferson Tower will be the site of this year’s Big Pitch. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

The Big Pitch process also includes mentor matching, education, relationship building, technical assistance and more.

“We’re trying to build this complete ecosystem around our finalists so that even if they do not win the prize money – hopefully they do – but even if they don’t they still come out much better and farther along in the business development process all from having been part of the Big Pitch,” Gordon said.

Gordon said the audience participation with the people’s choice component is important.

“We want to make sure that the city can actually be involved in what the next best thing, the next big business in Birmingham is going to be,” he said.

The event will also give those involved a sneak peek at the newly renovated Thomas Jefferson Tower. The former Cabana Hotel and Thomas Jefferson Hotel has been undergoing a $22 million renovation into 96 apartments, the Roots & Revelry restaurant, ballroom and event space.

“In a lot of ways, this development really underscores the redevelopment of Birmingham,” Gordon said.

PNC’s Bucher said giving a boost to startups in Birmingham is a great way to give a boost to Birmingham as a whole.

“That’s the idea behind our focus on economic development here in the city,” he said. “With REV Birmingham and many other partners and leaders, we are excited to watch our entrepreneurial community help make the Magic City a great place to live, work and play.”

It speaks to the new economic culture of Birmingham’s neighborhoods and its downtown.

“In a lot of ways Birmingham has been one of America’s best kept secrets. Word is now starting to get out about some of the things that we’ve been doing here,” Gordon said. “It just validates in a lot of ways just the audacity, the vision, the desire to dream big.”

The Big Pitch will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Thomas Jefferson Tower, 1631 Second Ave. North in Birmingham. Tickets are available at www.bigpitchbham.com.

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