STURTEVANT — Alex Hart-Upendo of Build-a-Bow won Tuesday’s Gateway Technical College Launch Box business pitch competition and will receive a $5,000 seed grant for his company.

The event was held at the SC Johnson integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology Center, or iMET, 2320 Renaissance Blvd. The entrepreneurs are part of Gateway’s Launch Box Accelerator Program, an effort to help them to start or grow their business. With tools and skills gained through an intense, 12-week business mentoring program, entrepreneurs competed for seed grants by making a 4-minute pitch to a panel of judges.

Upendo’s company specializes in tailored bowties and service to the community.

“I thought it was a great competition, and the 12-week cohort was very helpful, Upendo stated. He said the program helped him to better pinpoint his target market and make some changes to the price point of his products.

Erin Magennis, owner of CalmLet, a business that produces a wellness tool aimed at college female freshmen to regulate anxiety, won second place and received a $4,000 seed grant.

Alexander Ersing and Pablo Davalos-Alonso of Mt. Sinai Gym, a business seeking to break the mold of cookie-cutter corporate gyms through a gym offering a sense of community and differing exercise options, took third place and received a $3,000 seed grant.

Seth Muller of Muller Motors, and Kristina Watanabe and Lisa Aguilar of Wings of Fire, were runners-up and will each receive a $2,500 seed grant. Muller Motors is a company aimed at building an affordable electric car, and Wings of Fire is a wellness coaching company focused on female entrepreneurs.

“This group was so committed to excelling, and so committed to helping each other. That’s what’s supposed to happen with an accelerator,” stated Thalia Mendez, business resource specialist with Gateway’s Business and Workforce Solutions Division.

“The accelerator program provides a means for entrepreneurs to really focus,” she stated. “A lot of times, an entrepreneur comes in with a big idea but without the focus of being able to realistically do it. This helps them to narrow their focus and succeed.”

For more information, contact Mendez at 262-898-7404.

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Reporter

Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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