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Meet the winner of St. Pete Pitch Night

Margie Manning



Johnny Crowder, founder and CEO of Cope Notes, was part of Tampa Bay Innovation Center's third Innovation Accelerator cohort. File photo.

Cope Notes, a mental health support service, won the $5,000 prize at St. Pete Pitch Night, an event focused on showcasing, elevating and seeding community-based businesses.

A panel of four judges chose Cope Notes as the top winner among the five local companies describing their products and technologies.

Oh Yes! Shave Club, with patented technology for razors for women, won the audience choice award and received $500.

The competition was the second St. Pete Pitch Night. It was organized by the St. Pete Greenhouse, University of South Florida St. Petersburg Kate Tiedemann College of Business, and Regions Bank.

Wednesday night’s event was held online, with about 150 people registered to watch and cheer on the entrepreneurs who talked about their companies and their growth plans.

Pitch Night originally was scheduled to be an in-person event in March, but organizers shifted gears due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves,” said Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, in introductory remarks. “We’ve learned we can endure. We’ve learned we need to adjust and change. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves in a way that helps us challenge ourselves for the next step, and that is what entrepreneurship is every day.”

The Pitch Night is one way St. Petersburg shows support for small businesses, said Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“Our entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well in St. Pete. Our business community and particularly our small business community has been and will always be central to who we are in St. Petersburg. Our small businesses are part of our DNA. It is what makes us so different from any other city in the country,” Kriseman said.

The winning company, Cope Notes, was founded by Johnny Crowder, who described himself as a suicide and abuse survivor who spent 10 years in treatment for mental health conditions. Crowder said he’s not alone. Almost half of Americans will face mental illness at some point in their lives, but much of that goes untreated.

He said Cope Notes is designed to fill the gap, by providing daily mental health support via text messages.

“We send one randomly timed text a day. This is an intervention. It surprises the brain with a catalyst for positive thought,” Crowder said.

Cope Notes is a subscription service. Crowder said a full year’s subscription costs less than the price of a single therapy session. Individuals subscribe for themselves or for a friend, but Crowder is focusing on growing his focus on groups, such as businesses and schools who buy subscriptions for their employees or students.

Related: Tampa entrepreneur texts the way to mental health

Oh Yes! Shave Club, led by CEO Tracy David,  also is a subscription service, sending its unique razor designed for women and other shaving supplies to customers for $15 a month. The company has raised $250,00 and recorded $10,000 in pre-sales, David said.

Other competitors at St. Pete Pitch Night were:

• Eat Your Words Custom Cookies, a small, woman-owned business in St. Petersburg described by founder Holly Noah as a confectionery communications company. The company bakes cookies in the shape of letters that spell out messages and can be sent as gifts.

• Eventron, a Miami company founded by Christina Dill, with a platform to support the event industry.

• Jun Cyber, a St. Petersburg company founded by Wilson Bautista Jr. to provide cybersecurity training and community support to military veterans.

Pitches were scored on content and structure, communication, presentation effectiveness and innovative idea quality and vitality.

Judges were: Jim Donatelli, executive vice president of Regions Bank; Reuben Pressman, CEO and founder of Presence, and entrepreneur in residence for the city of St. Petersburg; Lauren Davenport, founder and CEO at The Symphony Agency; and Sridhar Sundaram, dean of the Tiedemann College of Business.

For those interested in finding out more about any of the companies that took part in St. Pete Pitch Night, here are links to their websites.

Eat Your Words Custom Cookies


Oh Yes! Shave Club

Jun Cyber

Cope Notes

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