Big Gig winners prepare for final

The Big Gig Networking and Pitch-Off Finale Event for Innovators, Entrepreneurs, Funders, Service Providers and Government Officials will be held at the Foster Center for Student Innovation on Wednesday, April 13.

Cathy Billings of Lobster Rx, Stephen Wong of Dad’s Approval and Ethan Poissonnier of the Amp Lab are the three finalists who will compete for the $1,500 grand prize in the pitch-off. The contestants will be judged by a panel, but the audience will make the final decision with ballot voting.

Billings, the winner of the first pitch-off event in October, said that Lobster Rx has had a variety of accomplishments in the time she’s had to prepare for the finale.

“I feel confident going in because I feel the value of our product is even stronger,” Billings said. His original pitch included information about Lobster Rx’s non-medicated skin cream that uses the healing properties of lobster hemolymph to treat the side effects of shingles and the herpes virus.

“We have basically finalized the formula on that now,” Billings said, adding that once the company finalizes the packaging and labeling process, the product should be in the market in 2017.

Billings hopes that the revenues from the healing cream can be used for Lobster Rx to pursue a pharmaceutical route, which is much more complicated than the process of creating an over-the-counter product.

Eventually, Lobster Rx may have the opportunity to extend their line with products such as lip balm and anti-aging creams.

Wong, the winner of the second pitch-off event, said that the experience has helped Dad’s Approval in a number of ways.

“First off was exposure. Second off, it gave me the confidence that this is actually a buyable idea,” Wong said. His startup is a YouTube channel that provides families with video game reviews and recordings of play-sessions as tools to aid the selection of appropriate games for children.

“There is a lot of good that can come from ,” Wong said. “There are games out there like Minecraft that have a lot of benefits. There are also games that are completely family friendly, but are difficult to grasp. We want to tell parents why or why not they should be buying these games.”

In addition to a $500 grant received through the Finance Authority of Maine, Wong used the pitch-off prize money to purchase equipment, such as high quality microphones, to improve the channel’s videos. Dad’s Approval’s primary goals are to obtain more technology and to officially form an LLC.

“I’ve seen the competition and it does shake my confidence a bit to be honest,” Wong said. “I have more confidence, at the same time, because of my past winning. Seeing the competition inspires me to work harder to make the best pitch I can.”

Poissonnier is a third-year food science student at UMaine whose interest in car audio lead him into a business partnership with Troy Dionne.

“We became friends and then we got into business together when we saw a need for a product,” Poissonnier said, who has developed a lithium battery for the car-audio market.

Although Poissonnier has had the least amount of time to prepare for the finale, he feels ready for his pitch.

“I’m taking public speaking, so I’m giving speeches like every other week, so I’m feeling less nervous,”Poissonnier said. “Whether or not I win this, our business is going forward. I’m definitely going to try to win, but even if we don’t get the money, we’re going to still continue on.”

Poissonnier initially entered the competition in hopes of getting an A in a small business class he took with Travis Blackmer last semester.

“It’s kind of funny,”  Poissonnier said. “Travis knew about my business and the battery. He told me that if I just attempted the Little Gig and showed up to the finale, he would give me an A in the class.”

Aside from his good grade, the pitch-off process has been beneficial to Poissonnier for other reasons, as well. He’s gained guidance from the connections he’s made, and the Amp Lab is currently preparing to release the battery in the first or second week of May.

In addition to the pitch-off, the event will include a keynote presentation from Alex Gray, the concert and music festival promoter known for Bangor’s Waterfront Concert Series.

The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. and is free to attend. There will also be appetizers and a cash bar. To RSVP and learn more, visit www.BigGig.com.

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