By Austin Metz Holland Sentinel, Mich.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Katarina Samardzija took home the top prize at the "5x5" pitch event which allowed 5 entrepreneurs 5 minutes to sell their product to a panel of 5 judges using 5 slides.
Holland Sentinel, Mich.
Katarina Samardzija and her product, Locker Lifestyle, took home the $5,000 top prize at 5x5 Night.
The event Wednesday evening, May 31, was held at the JW Center at Haworth and allowed five entrepreneurs five minutes to sell their product to a panel of five judges using five slides with the winner taking home $5,000 and also in-kind services through Varnum.
"It is shocking, I am honestly shaking because I'm so excited but it is all the more validation that what I'm doing is paying off," Samardzija said. "It's just exciting and I want to be able to empower other women entrepreneurs in the workplace."
Samardzija pitched her idea which includes four unique products that offer small storage to protect belongings during workouts, shopping, travel and more.
She currently has the Wrist Locker, the Ankle Locker, the Little Locker and the Head Locker. For more information about Locker Lifestyle, visit her website at instagram.com/lockerlifestyle/.
Now that she has taken home the top prize, her goal is to keep moving forward with her product in packaging and development and to build her brand.
One thing she wanted to make clear to other young entrepreneurs is to never give up on an idea.
"People may question you or shoot down your ideas but literally anything is possible," she said. "It comes down to how hard you work and the passion that you have for it. People will recognize that."
The panel of judges included local professionals who not only heard the five pitches and decided the winner but also provided feedback to each potential startup.
The other ideas pitched at the event included The KLYP, AgHelp, MyUnoCard and Parker Design. Paul Nemschoff, vice president of global strategy at Haworth, served as a judge for the event and to him, entrepreneurship serves a vital role in the business landscape.
"I think entrepreneurship is critical to any community and I think that 5x5 is a great venue that can inspire people to go after an opportunity," Nemschoff said. "I think the inspiration side is key and I think validation is significant. How often do you get successful business leaders together who give free advice?"
He also had advice for young entrepreneurs just starting out and said the first thing to do is nurture a good idea and then realize that an idea can be tweaked and improved.
"The reality is that you have to go out, you have to seek counsel, you have to find bright people and work incredibly hard to get that critical feedback and to get people challenging your idea," Nemschoff said. "Ultimately, that should make whatever your idea or opportunity is as great as it possibly can be and hopefully successful."
The event was free and open to the public and turned out to be a standing room only event with an audience including potential financial backers and supporters for each idea. It was put on by Lakeshore Advantage in partnership with Grand Rapids Start Garden.
The next 5x5 Night will be held on June 27 at Start Garden. For more information about the event and to see past 5x5 Night winners, visit their website at 5x5night.com.