What: Naturally Boulder Pitch Slam Preliminaries
When: 11:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday (doors open at 11:30 a.m. and pitches start at 12:45 p.m.)
Where: eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., Boulder
In 2006, local entrepreneur Phil Anson was a "one-man show" when he pitched his burrito business to a panel of natural products industry veterans in Boulder.
Anson's presentation for Phil's Fresh Foods was part of the inaugural "pitch slam" for Naturally Boulder, an organization that developed the event to have fledgling companies gain insight from industry experts and gain a chance to win a prize package of business development services.
"I was still quite lost and not totally sure of what my direction was in the future," Anson said.
Phil's Fresh Foods received two thumbs up and two thumbs down, but ultimately won the contest. The prize of $25,000 in services from the Boulder Innovation Center allowed Anson to build a network with others in the industry.
Seven years later, Anson credits those and other connections with helping Phil's Fresh Foods transform into EVOL Foods, one of the fastest-growing companies in the nation's natural products industry.
Starting midday Wednesday, 25 entrepreneurs hoping for a big break in the natural and organic industry will tout their ideas as part of Naturally Boulder's annual Autumn Awards and Pitch Slam Party.
"It's been interesting to see how emerging companies have taken the feedback (from Pitch Slam judges) and they parlayed that into great business successes -- not just here in Boulder, but nationally," said Paul Raab, a board member of Naturally Boulder.
More than 350 people are expected to attend today's Autumn Awards and Pitch Slam Party.
The all-day event includes the Pitch Slam Preliminaries, in which 25 entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts that include Hass Hassan, a founder of the original Alfalfa's Market, and Nova Covington, the Goddess Garden founder and past Pitch Slam winner. The preliminaries, which run from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at eTown Hall, are open to the public.
During the evening, the finalists chosen during the preliminaries will vie for a prize package that includes more than $50,000 in business services and a $2,000 cash prize at the sold-out banquet that will include an awards ceremony. Sara Snow, an organic foods advocate who hosted the TV show "Get Fresh With Sara Snow," will serve as the event's master of ceremonies.
"We decided that the Pitch Slam finals are just so exciting that we're going to do them on stage for the first half hour of the program at the Boulder Theater," said Ellen Feeney, president of Naturally Boulder.
The timing of the Pitch Slam finals and the cash prize are among several changes to this year's event.
Organizers also are implementing a technology that will take into account audience votes in addition to the judges' votes. This year also marks the first time when Naturally Boulder implemented specific criteria for Pitch Slam eligibility.
Naturally Boulder officials received feedback from last year's event when Dressed Up Salad Dressing, which already had established itself and had its projects on the shelves in regional Whole Foods stores, won the Pitch Slam.
Dressed Up Salad Dressing has since dissolved.
"The Pitch Slam is really for the startup phenomena of presenting a new idea and getting feedback," Feeney said. " ...The whole mission of the (Naturally Boulder) organization is to nurture and promote the natural products industry."
Officials this year whittled the Pitch Slam applicants down to 25 startups and early stage firms and directed others to apply for consideration for awards such as Best Young Business.
Boulder-based CompoKeeper, which developed a kitchen compost bin designed to be clean and odor-free, is one of the 25 firms expected to pitch today.
Kristen Hess, who co-founded the firm with her father, said she's taken the past week to prepare for the speech and has spent the final hours making sure the pitch was at the 3-minute mark.
"I'm just really excited," she said Tuesday. "I'm not much of a public speaker yet. I'm glad to step into that role, especially for something I'm so passionate about."
The CompoKeeper has been four years in the making and recently got closer to mass production when it caught the eye of Steve Savage, who co-founded Eco-Products and currently runs National Eco Wholesale. Savage initially provided a loan to the company and then became an advisor, Hess said.
The Pitch Slam's timing could be critical for helping build awareness about CompoKeeper, which is preparing for mass production and has concurrently launched a Kickstarter campaign, she said.
"I think that our product is especially fitting for Naturally Boulder but a little bit unique because it's not necessarily a food item, but it is part of the natural lifestyle that doesn't get a lot of attention," she said.
Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or email@example.com.