A plant-selling website won Purdue University Northwest's Big Sell pitch competition this year.
Richard Christakes won first place in the entrepreneural contest for Ship My Plants, a website that connects plant enthusiasts with the nearest sellers based on geolocation so that plants don't have to ship all the way across the country, going days in the back of a dark truck without water or sunlight. Christakes said the business will reduce stress on the plants, shipping times, costs and carbon emissions.
He won $10,000 in the annual contest in which entrepreneuers pitch their business ideas in six minutes.
Drew Jarvis and Cindy Belardo won a $3,000 prize after placing second in the Big Sell, which has helped launch many start-up companies in Northwest Indiana over the years. They came up with Sunny Cup, a reusable feminine hygiene product that's billed as being better for the environment, free of chemicals and lower in cost over time.
Dan Durochik, a Purdue Northwest alumnus who earned a degree in managerial studies, came in third place out of the 12 Big Sell finalists this year. He won $1,000 for Alert Lift, his idea for a carbon monoxide detector linked to an automative garage door opener, that could open the garage to ventilate it after detecting high levels of carbon monoxide.
“Year after year the PNW Big Sell showcases the innovation and entrepreneurship in Northwest Indiana,” said Kristin Burton, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Purdue University Northwest. “Each year I am excited to see what business ideas and concepts will be presented. We are so grateful to NIPSCO for sponsoring this event and their commitment to helping small businesses. I encourage all aspiring entrepreneurs to consider presenting their business ideas at the PNW Big Sell next year.”
Burton and Entrepreneur in Residence Mont Handley directed the event at Purdue Northwest's Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center. A three-member panel consisting of past winners Rockland Page, Emily Edwards and Scott Massey judged the contest this year.
Page's Rockablock design company won last year, Edwards' Paradise, Inc. plant-based snack company came in second last year, and Massey's ag-tech Heliponix won first place in 2018.
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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.