A local company selling cannabis- and mushroom-infused drinks claimed the top prize at this year’s St. Pete Pitch Night.
Inside the Coastal Creative production studio, a handful of entrepreneurs presented six-minute pitches to a roomful of investors, city business leaders and a panel of judges Wednesday evening. The annual event is hosted by St. Pete Greenhouse and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
The participating companies included BUP, Care Collective, Herban Flow, OneBook and Spot.
Caitlyn Smith, a co-founder of Herban Flow, Florida’s first non-alcoholic bottle shop, claimed the top spot, earning the $5,000 monetary prize from Regions Bank.
Smith amazed the judges in sharing her entrepreneurial journey that led Smith and her husband, Michael, to “change social drinking.”
“In 2020, my husband and I traveled the U.S. Along the way, we suffered pain points. I have endometriosis (a medical condition in which tissue grows outside of the uterus) so drinking alcohol does not work well with my body, and my partner celebrated three years of sobriety. One of the things we noticed along the way was the lack of non-alcoholic bottle shops in the area, particularly in Florida,” Smith shared with the audience.
Smith explained while consumers can purchase drinks online, they are often committing to buying large shipments before tasting the product.
In April 2022, the duo started selling these drinks at events and festivals. The positive response from the community justified their next step in securing a brick-and-mortar storefront at 6848 22nd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg.
In the first six months, the Smiths have brought in $250,000 in revenue.
However, Smith said they are outgrowing the capacity of the existing store and the new funds will allow them to expand the business into a neighboring space, where they will stock more products on the shelves. They will also offer classes from herbalists to educate the public about the benefits of drinks containing CBD (cannabidiol) or mushrooms.
The other contenders:
Care Collective: Rebecca Paone recalled the time when she and her family went through the emotionally stressful process of finding at-home nurses to care for her father, who suffered a massive stroke in 2012. In enduring the tedious process of hiring qualified in-home care providers, of which there’s a shortage, Paone created a peer-sharing platform to ease the burden. Her product Care Collective helps locate nurses within a five-mile radius and once selected, the family can then interview the licensed individual and hire them via the app. Paone said she is talking with hospitals and the startup is in the pre-revenue stage. She is seeking a total of $18 million in funding. By this fourth quarter, she expects to close an $800,000 round. Although she didn’t win the top spot, she received the $500 Audience Choice Award prize.
OneBook: Ian Imamura wants to streamline the way people find contractors who work on everything from plumbing to fixing appliances. Through his application OneBook, homeowners can view a contractor’s ratings, reviews, costs and personal booking availability. The contractor has the right to accept or deny requests. OneBook takes a 20% booking fee. Imamura is looking to raise $500,000 and “break-even” if he is able to onboard 120,000 users in Tampa. He was planning to use the winning prize money to fund sales, marketing and build new features in the app.
Spot: While speaking about the nation’s obesity health crisis, Adam Ben-Evi presented a photo of himself sporting a pair of boardshorts on a beach. He has since lost 45 pounds by exercising, and through his health journey he came across numerous fitness apps that focused on one or two sports, and others advertising meet-up events. He created Spot, a centralized app that helps users find recreational facilities, such as pickleball courts, and allows them to meet other fitness enthusiasts at different destinations. Ben-Evi said 70 businesses have signed up to use the app, including LA Fitness and Mayweather Boxing, to promote their events and discounts. St. Pete-based firm Black Dog Venture Partners is one of the company’s investors. Ben-Evi said the goal is to reach 5,000 users.
BUP: University of Tampa graduate Martika Brianne has created a hands-free way of networking. With her product BUP, users can transfer contact information through the tap of a band that’s digitally connected to a person’s phone. The information is stored, and the product then uses artificial intelligence to automate messages that can be sent to the new contact. Brianne is expecting to onboard 80 businesses and generate over $2 million in revenue. The startup is currently running a pilot program with the local Century 21 Beggins Enterprises real estate company.