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Pitch Competitions Giving Entrepreneurs a Big Boost

Posted from Think Kentucky, Cabinet for Economic Development
July 24, 2014

A western Kentucky entrepreneur is hoping to land some big fish, in more ways than one.

Lula Luu presented her business, Fin Gourmet, to a panel of local judges during the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s entrepreneur pitch competition in Murray last month. For her award-winning presentation, Luu received a cash prize. But she also received the opportunity to present her business to the Kentucky Angel Investors Network (Kentucky Angels) in Frankfort later this year and the chance to land some significant investors.

“This [the competition] isn’t a publicity stunt, like others we’ve been to in other states” said Luu. “Kentucky cares about promoting entrepreneurship. There were people from the economic development side, students, budding entrepreneurs who wanted to learn and private businesses looking to invest. All this was very impressive because Kentucky is not just talking about supporting small startups, they’re doing it.”

Fin Gourmet specializes in the harvesting and processing of natural Asian carp, wild caught here in Kentucky. Luu says that procuring the fish locally is important to her customers. Her company recently moved from New Orleans to Paducah where Luu hopes to make its Asian carp products a signature line.

“We started our business in the most cutthroat environment for a fish business: New Orleans,” Luu added. “There are no tangible resources to help small businesses like ours there. We’ve been through the mill with federal, state and municipal organizations designed to help entrepreneurs but nothing ever materialized. When I saw the newsflash about what Governor Beshear and Kentucky Angels were trying to do to help startups, we were thrilled. It was more real than anything we’ve seen.”

Luu is one of dozens of entrepreneurs hoping to get their business ideas in the spotlight and, ultimately, in front of the Kentucky Angels. They’re participating in one of eight statewide pitch competitions hosted by the Cabinet and the Kentucky Innovation Network. Events have already taken place in Murray, Elizabethtown, Pikeville, Louisville, Richmond and Ashland with additional events scheduled for Lexington and Covington later this year.
Like Luu, the winners of the other competitions took home cash prizes and will present their ideas to Kentucky Angels this fall.

Here’s what the winners have said about the competitions so far:

“The state and the Kentucky Innovation Network have been a tremendous help to me. I am now very close to achieving my lifelong business dream.”

-Charles Black, owner of Dimples Bakeware and winner of the Ashland competition

“Winning this regional competition further validates the bright future of our company. The networking was invaluable, and the contacts that we made at the event were priceless. We look forward to our company’s growth which will enable us to give back to our community.”

-Russie Jones, owner of Rely-A-Light and winner of the Richmond competition

“It was a pleasure to participate in the Kentucky Angel pitch competition and to gather together with other Kentucky entrepreneurs, investors and supporters. I appreciate the work of the Cabinet for Economic Development through the Kentucky Innovation Network to help make that happen.”

-Brian Mefford, Connected Nation Exchange (CNX) and winner of the Elizabethtown competition

“This was truly an amazing opportunity. I look forward to growing my business, and I would like to encourage others to pursue their dreams.”

-Shannon Mullins, creator of My Status Bracelet and winner of the Pikeville competition

Learn more about the pitch competitions and Kentucky Angels here.