Seed Spot's Demo Day Showcases New Business Ventures in Downtown Phoenix
Janessa Hilliard Seed Spot's entrepreneurs take the stage at Demo Day on Thursday, June 5.
When Lindsey Michaelree spoke, you could tell she was slightly nervous. In a floor-length black and white dress, her short blonde hair pulled away from her face, she pitched her plan. And as she continued her voice became stronger. Louder. Impassioned.
The nerves were understandable -- Michaelree was one of an elite group of selected startup owners to take the stage in front of 855 people at the Orpheum Theater Thursday night, but so was the confidence. This was a project she and her husband, Jeff, had worked on for the past four months under the guidance of Phoenix-based incubator Seed Spot. And her presentation, along with the others, was part of the company's bi-annual Demo Day event.
Since its inception in 2012, the local breeding ground for entrepreneurs has helped launched businesses locally and beyond, joining the ranks of CoHoots and JumpStart Phoenix to help foster growth for these ambitious business leaders.
"[We] saw a need to increase the odds of success for the passionate," Courtney Klein, co-founder and CEO, said when she addressed the crowd. Klein and her chief operating officer, Mike Rudinsky, have found a successful business model of their own.
Seventy-six percent of their graduates are still in business -- small nonprofits and profitable companies alike that have created 61 jobs and impacted an (otherwise immeasurable) 48,282 lives. The organization focused on what Klein calls "social entrepreneurs," whose businesses have an emphasis in healthcare, education and the environment.
This spring's Demo Day, held on Thursday, June 5, was the capstone event. Each class of venture students takes the stage in front of a mix of friendly faces and unknown businesspeople to present their ideas. Presenters have three minutes to pitch their proposals, including everything from inspiration to profit margins and projected growth. At the end of the evening companies are awarded prizes that include six months of free office space at the Seed Spot headquarters, grants, and -- arguably most notably -- a $5,000 Impact Award, voted on by audience members.
This year's award went to Table Top, a company whose goal is to "give back while dining out" through creation and implementation of an app that allows diners to choose charities of their choice for restaurant owners to donate a percentage of their profits to. The business has already received positive feedback and support from Upward Projects and Special Olympics Arizona and hopes to reach 800 nonprofits and 1,500 restaurants.
Michaelree and her husband were awarded a $10,000 grant, courtesy of the Arizona Community Foundation's Pakis Center for Business Philanthropy. The money stipulates certain benchmarks for their proposed business, Gave in America, which takes the traditional model of donating unwanted items and turns it into a shared, online marketplace. Their "goods for good people" idea combines the ease of Craigslist with the tax deductibility of Goodwill to promote socially conscious shopping.
But the biggest award of the night, a $15,000 donation, and certainly the concept that garnered the most applause, went to Skate After School, a joint effort by speaker Ryan Lay, Bobby Green and Tim Ward to bring positive extracurricular activities to latchkey kids. Twenty-two percent of kids take care of themselves after school, and while the two-year-old program has already been implemented in three area schools -- reaching 150 kids through the creation of 100 skateboards -- the trio hope to reach 10 schools (or 300 kids) by January of next year.
2828 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ
1027 E. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ
5210 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ
2201 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ
525 S. Central, Phoenix, AZ
University Drive and Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ
2107 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ
1353 E. University Drive, Tempe, AZ