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Charles Ufongene, creator of a 5G network model called FTTH, makes an elevator pitch at the reSET Flight Night (Shawn R. Beals / CTNewsJunkie)

HARTFORD, CT – Two Hartford businesses won cash prizes Thursday night in an elevator pitch competition designed to give entrepreneurs a platform to develop their companies and their marketing approaches.

The Flight Night event hosted by social business incubator reSET gave six business owners an opportunity to hone their sales pitch for new or expanding missions, and small prizes went to childhood education provider Music Note Kids and to Tip$, a platform that will provide tips directly to hotel room service workers.

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Andrew Slaiby, owner of Tip$, was one of two businesses to receive small prizes for their business pitches at the reSET Flight Night Nov. 21 (Shawn R. Beals / CTNewsJunkie)

Six business owners gave short presentations to two judges, who critiqued the pitches and gave them feedback on how they can hone their approach for the future as they look for financing and other resources.

“It’s unlimited value,” said Joseph Inigo, founder of Music Note Kids, who said he had never made a pitch to an audience before. “You get experience. I’m not used to talking in front of a whole bunch of people and it’s a learning process for me. I know that later on in life I’m going to be in the same spot and I’m going to have to talk, so I’m using this as a stepping stone to get better.”

Inigo said his program is in one school right now and that he is in various stages of adding it to other schools, including a group of charter schools. Music Note Kids is an after-school program that gives students an opportunity to be creative in an educational setting, he said.

Other pitches were on a health and wellness program, a 5G network platform, a financial coaching business and the PetrolHead Cafe, a restaurant and cafe marketed toward racing fans. The winners both received $311 from a pool donated by the audience of about 30 local residents and business leaders.

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Kyle Mayer is developing the Petrol Head Cafe, a restaurant, beer bar and cafe marketed toward racing fans (Shawn R. Beals / CTNewsJunkie)

“I know I made a gazillion mistakes especially in my first two to three years in business,” said Guilaine Menefee, executive director of the Black Business Alliance and one of the Flight Night judges. “You increase that survival rate just a little bit more just to pour some wisdom into the business up front.”

The reSET programs are designed to give business owners with a social cause a platform to grow and develop their ideas. There are several other programs including the Food Incubator for culinary business ideas, programs for students, and the Impact Accelerator Venture Showcase to give polished business plans access to grant funding.

“The elevator pitch hits on the top three reasons why businesses [close]: strategy, financing and marketing,” Menefee said. “You have to hit those things in your elevator pitch, and so we’re going to give them food for thought upfront instead of them tripping into it and their business fails.”

Many of the businesses that have pitched during the Flight Night events have gone on to participate in the more formal entrepreneurial development programs reSET offers, said Shane Chase, the organization’s program director.

“If have more programs like this, we can have more businesses that are representative of our community and more businesses representative of the needs in our community,” Chase said. “Ultimately what we’re striving for at reSET is to support businesses that are of Hartford residents, for Hartford residents, and located in Hartford.”

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Yvette Williams, owner of 2 Your Health, explains her efforts to expand her nutrition and wellness business to focus on people recovering from addiction (Shawn R. Beals / CTNewsJunkie)

Yvette Williams, founder of 2 Your Health, is trying to expand her nutrition and wellness business into programs focusing on addiction recovery. She said even though she didn’t win a prize Thursday, the experience provided valuable coaching on how to make an effective pitch in the future.

“It’s very important. It helps you with communicating to people who can have an impact on our business,” Williams said. “It gives you hands-on ‘to dos’ that you can use to move your business forward.”

She said the group of business owners with diverse ideas to share is a good representation of the talented entrepreneurs in Connecticut.

“It shows that it’s alive and we have innovative, practical ideas to solve some existing problems and provide innovation,” Williams said. “It shows that we can have a strong economy if we have infrastructure, laws, support systems like these providing valuable support to people developing their business.”

In 2019, 26 businesses participated in the three Flight Nights, and reSET hosted more than 40 total events, said Managing Director Sarah Bodley. The non-profit’s programs served 70 startups, she said, and 71% of those were owned by women and people of color.