Upcoming RINK Pitch Competition will be Nov. 29, 2022, at Pier B in Duluth
Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is pleased to announce that Frank Gangi, founder of Itasca Rack Company, has won the latest RINK Pitch Competition. Five regional entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to a judging panel for a chance to win startup funding on May 11, 2022, at Rapids Brewing in Grand Rapids.
The RINK Pitch Competition, created by Innovate 218, IEDC’s Launch MN group, is a catalyst connecting start-up funders, innovators, entrepreneurs and creative talent to help showcase ideas and bring business ideas from concept into reality. A panel of judges weighs in to evaluate each business for innovation, marketability and potential for growth.
“The RINK has been an incredible method of supporting local startup opportunities,” said Tamara Lowney, IEDC President. “Innovate 218 is bringing innovative entrepreneurs into the room with experienced, savvy leaders looking to share their knowledge, support new ideas and drive economic growth. Our second RINK pitch competition was a resounding success.”
The HAT TRICK award for most polished pitch went to Frank Gangi, founder of Itasca Rack Company. Frank won $3,000 to support his fast-growing new business.
The GOON award for best idea ($2,000) went to Keely Gelineau, who founded DA Medical to address an often-overlooked complication with the post-abdominal surgery recovery process.
The CROWD-PLEASER award voted live by the crowd, ($1,000) went to Zakery Karnes, founder of Karnzy, Minnesota-made and environmentally friendly fishing hooks.
Innovate 218 and a selection committee including Tamara Lowney, Amanda Lamppa, Innovate 218 Program Manager and a small panel, chose five entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from around the region. Judges included:
– Ben Edwards, Owner of Edwards/LaPlant Construction
– Megan Kellin, Owner of Lake & Co./be.Media
– Nick Rothstein, Professor of Business and Economics at Itasca Community College
– Mully Tulek, Owner/Broker, EOW Realty
– Kurt Werner, Executive Vice President of Woodland Bank
The RINK Pitch Competition was held on May 11, 2022, at Rapids Brewing in Grand Rapids. Judges listened to business pitches and evaluated each entrepreneur’s business idea’s viability, competitive advantages, market competition, intended target market, revenue model, business acumen, strategic value, and how the product solves a problem or need. The event was moderated by “referees” Tamara Lowney, President of IEDC, and Amanda Lamppa, Innovate 218 Project Manager.
Frank Gangi – Itasca Rack Company
Frank Gangi has been an avid outdoor enthusiast his entire life, which meant he had a wealth of gear and equipment cluttering up his garage. As his family grew and his children embraced his passion, his space hit a new level of clutter. An innovator at heart, Gangi devised a solution: the Itasca Rack, patent-pending. This new and easy-to-use equipment storage rack saves space and improves flexibility, making it easier for people to access gear and get outdoors. Gangi took first place in The RINK Pitch Competition, impressing judges with a well-planned business launch strategy, which he developed during the ILT Academy Lean Business Startup course. At the RINK, Gangi forged connections with the community and other entrepreneurs that will help him launch Itasca Rack Company powerfully.
“The RINK was intense, incredible and a bit nerve-wracking, but overall a great opportunity to gain experience and share Itasca Rack Company with potential customers and investors,” Gangi said. “IEDC and Innovate 218 have been tremendous resources, helping me remove barriers to bring my dream into a reality.”
Itasca Rack Company is currently seeking a patent for Gangi’s original design, and Gangi is hard at work setting up the business structure and exploring designs and manufacturing opportunities for mass-market sales. Learn more at www.itascaracks.com, and watch for products available for sale in spring 2023.
Keely Gelineau – DA Medical
Keely Gelineau is a lifelong entrepreneur and currently owns and operates Polished Perception, an entertainment production company based in Duluth. She also founded DA Medical, a state-of-the-art health and cosmetic prototype, to help address an overlooked issue in the post-abdominal surgery healing process. Gelineau earned the GOON award for the best idea at the RINK Pitch Competition. After her own abdominal surgery, Keely saw an opportunity to improve upon the existing post-operative care regimen, which is little more than a compression belt. Gelineau designed an elevated compression belt with a 3-D impression that helps reestablish the connection between the skin and fascia, which are separated during surgery. DA Medical’s belt encourages strategic regrowth and healing and has the potential to transform the post-op process.
At just 23 years old, Zak Karnes is already what you’d call a serial entrepreneur. He co-owns Aremco, an aerospace machining company and he co-owns, operates and manages two more family businesses Zakobe and Cast & Color. On top of that, Karnes has founded Karnzy, an outdoor products company committed to making high-quality, high-performing products responsibly – Karnzy will only ever sell what they make in-house.
Karnzy has developed a line of responsibly-produced fishing lures made with eco-friendly materials sourced in the US. Karnzy currently offers plastic-free tackle and jigs with additional fishing products in the works. The Karnzy business model is breaking the mold, too, with monthly giveaways and charitable donations to customer-selected organizations with every purchase. Karnes also has plans for educational events, tournaments and increased awareness and support for everyone’s enjoyment of the outdoors.
“I had an absolute blast at the Rink,” Karnes explained. “I was able to take everything I’d learned in the ILT Academy Lean Startup Innovation course, and am beyond thrilled that I took home the audience choice award. There’s a market for cleaner outdoor products, and Karnzy is ready to deliver.”
The Karnzy team is finishing up over 100,000 fishing jigs with plans to start taking pre-orders this summer. Learn more online at www.karnzy.com, and follow on social media. Facebook: @karnzyoutdoor,
Instagram @karnzy_outdoor and TikTok @karnzy.com.
Participate in the Regional Culture of Entrepreneurship
All around northern Minnesota, incredible entrepreneurs, economic developers, investors and
supporters are coming together to bring new businesses out of the idea stage and into reality. If you are ready to hone your business idea into a strategic business plan, consider taking our Lean Startup Innovation course, led by ILT Academy. The fall cohort will begin meeting on Aug. 29, 2022 – Register now.
The next RINK Pitch Competition will be on Nov. 29, 2022, at Pier B in Duluth. If you’re interested in participating in the RINK, strengthening your entrepreneurial skills, fine-tuning a business idea, investing capital or providing support or mentorship for regional entrepreneurs, contact Amanda Lamppa, Innovate 218 Program Manager at [email protected]