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Tampa startup wins $50k in cash and prizes from pitch competition

Veronica Brezina

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April Caldwell, founder of fayVen. Photo provided.

April Caldwell experienced the frustrations of securing space at events to sell her gourmet popcorn, and like any successful entrepreneur she wanted to fix the problem. 

Caldwell founded fayVen, which is like the home-sharing platform Airbnb but for vendors and venues. The Tampa-based startup connects all parties in an online marketplace. The platform, which is still in beta testing, recently landed Caldwell in Bloomberg’s 2 Minute Drill pitch competition show where Caldwell won $50,000 in grand prizes. 

The episode was filmed in November, but Caldwell couldn’t make the announcement until this week. Caldwell explained the prize breaks down to $10,000 of investment funds. The terms of the deal still need to be negotiated; however, it’s expected that the investment would be from Washington, D.C.-based Outpost Ventures. 

April Caldwell of fayVen pitches to the panel of judges on Bloomberg’s 2 Minute Drill show. Image provided.

“I remember when I was running the popcorn business and how I wished the venues were more transparent about the cost of the event, the logistics of setting up, the rules in place – communication was very poor. For me, I started asking vendors beside me, ‘How do I find the next cool event? Who do I talk with?’ It was all by word of mouth, there was never a website you could go to,” Caldwell said, recalling the driving decision to start fayVen. 

She explained her company will generate revenue by taking a percentage of a booking fee from venues when a retail space is booked through fayVen. The platform also allows vendors to rate venues – similar to how Airbnb hosts and guests are encouraged to rate one another. 

Caldwell started fayVen in 2018 while she was still popping popcorn. She and her husband, both military veterans, decided to move to Florida about six months ago to be closer to family. Since then, they have stopped the popcorn business to focus on creating fayVen. 

Caldwell said she went through the Hillsborough Community College’s STRIVE program, an entrepreneurship training program for veterans, which is how she got introduced to Embarc Collective. The connection and becoming a member of Embarc Collective helped Caldwell start working with the Lakeland-based Florida Polytechnic Institute, where students are behind-the-scenes working on the fayVen website. 

HCC also allowed Caldwell to receive a $6,000 grant from the Everyday Entrepreneur Venture Fund (EEVF) in 2021. 

Caldwell has also become a member of the Tampa Bay Wave and was declared the winner of the Greenhouse’s St. Pete Pitch Night of 2021. 

“We like partnering with the Greenhouse. St. Pete is very cool and full of artists and small businesses, and Tampa is a big entrepreneurial scene,” Caldwell said. 

While fayVen has not officially launched, Caldwell said she hopes the website will be completed within several months and could eventually become a mobile app. 

In the meantime, people can catch Caldwell at events around Tampa Bay engaging with venue owners and vendors. 

 

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