BELLOWS FALLS -- Countless people have good ideas for unique businesses. But many lack the advice, connections or finances to get their enterprises off the ground.
That's where FreshTracks Capital and its "Road Pitch" project come in.
FreshTracks Capital is a Vermont-based venture capital firm dedicated to investing in and building innovative, high-growth companies in the Northeast. Its "Road Pitch" program is a four-day ride around Vermont to hear business pitches from all sorts of entrepreneurs in a variety of venues. From Aug. 4 to Aug. 7, the program's founding riders will cruise more than 350 miles through 11 of the state's 13 counties on motorcycles and bring open ears and a wealth of knowledge. This is the inaugural year of the program.
One of the stops is slated to be in Bellows Falls. The Sustainable Valley Group, a nonprofit committed to generating financially and environmentally sustainable economies, is hosting the event in which nearly 30 experienced Vermont entrepreneurs, investors and business advisors will visit the train station to hear selected business pitches at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 5.
SVG Director Gary Fox said four budding entrepreneurs will make pitches at the Bellows Falls train station. He said one company plans to make software for iPhones and Androids, another wants to sell products at landscaping supply stores while another would create a renewable energy product and a fourth would manufacture an "alternative transportation" product.
Businesses interested in making pitches were required to contact Fox by July 24. He said he had to turn away several "folks who aren't quite ready" and need more development.
Fox told the Reformer each of the four budding entrepreneurs will give a 10-minute presentation that is followed by 10 minutes of questions from the FreshTracks Capital panel and 10 minutes of guidance.
"This totally meets our mission to help small entrepreneurs get started," he said. "I think it will be great. I'm really excited to learn from this process."
The riders include Small Dog Electronics CEO Don Mayer, Magic Hat Brewing Company co-founder Alan Newman, David Blittersdorf (the president and CEO of AllEarth Renewables), Andrew Stickney (the vice president for the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies), Shawn Straffin of Promot.it and Birnam Wood Games founder Marguerite Dibble.
FreshTracks Capital co-founder Cairn Cross told the Reformer the Road Pitch program sprouted from a wintertime event called Peak Pitch. He said Peak Pitch allowed entrepreneurs to deliver an elevator speech -- or a brief spiel with the purpose of persuading someone, as if you're on an elevator ride -- to FreshTracks Capital members while on a chairlift at Sugarbush Resort. Cross said Peak Pitch grew in popularity and one day it struck him that many entrepreneurs, investors and advisors in Vermont ride motorcycles and he figured it was possible to create an event in which they ride around Vermont listening to business pitches.
"It kind of mushroomed into something that is much bigger than I really thought it would be a few months ago," he said.
He said not all of the nearly 30 FreshTracks Capital members will ride every day, though each day will likely feature at least 15 riders. Cross said the format of the pitches will be left up to each local coordinator, but the entrepreneurs who signed up in time will get face-to-face time to deliver their pitch. He said FreshTracks Capital members will hear about 40 pitches over the four days.
According to FreshTracks Capital, it has been operating for 14 years and recently started its third fund that has invested in six Vermont companies during the past nine months. It has invested in 30 companies during its 14-year history including EatingWell Media Group, Vermont Teddy Bear, SunCommon, and NEHP. Cross told the Reformer 10 percent of the businesses in FreshTracks Capital's portfolio pitched at Peak Pitch.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.