4 entrepreneurs to split $10K from annual pitch competition, boosting their businesses

Valley Youth Sports founder Matt Allen speaks at the “Take the Floor” pitch competition Thursday evening at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield.

Valley Youth Sports founder Matt Allen speaks at the “Take the Floor” pitch competition Thursday evening at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Greenfield High School student and founder of Kneaded Goods Bakery Shane Toomey speaks at the “Take the Floor Pitch” competition Thursday evening at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield.

Greenfield High School student and founder of Kneaded Goods Bakery Shane Toomey speaks at the “Take the Floor Pitch” competition Thursday evening at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Ethereal World founder Jaylin Charles speaks at the “Take the Floor” pitch competition Thursday evening at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield.

Ethereal World founder Jaylin Charles speaks at the “Take the Floor” pitch competition Thursday evening at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

The annual “Take the Floor” pitch competition was held at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Thursday evening.

The annual “Take the Floor” pitch competition was held at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Thursday evening. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-28-2024 2:24 PM

GREENFIELD — Four up-and-coming entrepreneurs got a boost and split $10,000 to invest into their growing businesses Thursday night in the fourth installment of the “Take the Floor” pitch competition.

The competition is a part of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation’s UPstart Program, which has kick-started both Take the Floor and the CDC’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator program to stimulate the local economy. Thursday’s event at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center was emceed by Max Fripp, who has led the event for several years.

Take the Floor serves as a way for early-stage entrepreneurs to present their business ideas, receive feedback from judges and earn prize money to invest in the community. The judges were Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessye Deane, the CDC’s Tricia Wancko, Greenfield Savings Bank’s Ian Vukovich and Raymond Lanza-Weil, president of Common Capital.

Creative category

Ethereal World is a clothing brand started by Jaylin Charles, 20, alongside his brother and friend. They design custom streetwear with the goal of bringing new fashion to Franklin County.

“Greenfield has a large, diverse youth community who want original streetwear clothing,” Charles said. “Ethereal World fills the void. We are a group of young, diverse creators who are bringing new fashion to Greenfield and beyond.”

In pitching the business, Charles said their flagship products are T-shirts and sweatshirts, alongside limited-time items to drive demand. Ethereal World’s products are available online and they have some items on sale at Filthy Kicks on Main Street, too.

With the money he earned, Charles said they want to invest in a DTG printer, so he doesn’t have to rely on an outside printer anymore.

“It’s surreal,” Charles said of winning the creative portion of the event, adding that this additional funding will “be a big help because I’ve been using my own money for the business.”

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Ethereal World can be found on instagram @EtherealWrld.co.

Food/Beverage/Agriculture category

Kneaded Goods Bakery has been a fixture at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market for more than a year and is an allergen-friendly bakery started by rising Greenfield High School senior Shane Toomey.

Toomey whips up allergen-friendly bagels, cinnamon rolls, bread, cookies and muffins — as well as some gluten-free products — from his parents’ home. He serves them at his booth at the market and also provides some wholesale orders to other businesses at the market.

“While I am making quality, allergy-friendly food, it needs to be affordable,” Toomey said, noting that these specialized items often cost more to make and sell, as “stick for stick, butter is more expensive.” “I have succeeded, I have definitely failed. … I’ve watched and learned what my business needs.”

His plans for growth include improving Kneaded Goods Bakery’s image and his marketing, which he said will create “longevity” for his business as customers will use word-of-mouth marketing to promote his work.

“Image means rebuilding my stand event setup from the ground up,” he said. “All of that is with the goal of creating the most alluring and attractive storefront as possible.”

“God bless your family for having a microbakery in your house,” joked Wancko, who asked Toomey about his plans for growth. Toomey said his “biggest bottleneck right now” is oven space, which has caused him to avoid taking up too many wholesale partnerships for now.

Kneaded Goods Bakery can be found on Instagram: @Kneaded_Goods_Bakery.

Small Business category

Voting in the small business category ended up in a tie, with Matt Allen’s Valley Youth Sports and Nikita Unhurian’s UNG Detailing receiving the same number of votes.

Allen said Valley Youth Sports is currently a vision “without a home,” as he wants to create a “community space for youth” where families and athletes can hold practices, come together or participate in sports academies.

“The biggest problem with Valley Youth Sports is trying to find a space,” Allen said, adding that he currently runs a basketball camp at Smith Academy in Hatfield.

“As a fellow die-hard sports family,” Deane said, “there is certainly a need for off-season training and strength and conditioning.”

With his prize money, Allen said he will invest into the LLC annual report filing fee and help kick-start his basketball camp. Valley Youth Sports can be found at valleyyouthsports.org.

Unhurian is an 18-year-old from Ukraine who moved to the U.S. about six months ago and is preparing to launch UNG Detailing, which he said would operate through an app because “that’s easier” than picking up the phone and scheduling an appointment. The company will have one service package: “Perfect Condition.”

After a long week, “the last thing you want to do is clean your car. You call us, we’ll make everything fast,” he said. His target is to get the business rolling as soon as possible and to bring on additional staff.

“I think you may have detailed our fabulous host’s minivan,” joked Vukovich, with Fripp joking that he has an “adventure van” for his outdoor activities. He added, “It’s a very clean van right now.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.