Event helps build stronger Island community

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MVRHS senior Daniel Gaines (5th from left) participated in Blue Economy weekend last year, which Pitch Perfect was modeled after. —MV Times file photo

By Alexis Condon

Aspiring entrepreneurs in the community will present their Island-based ideas to a panel of judges in the recently developed Island-wide Pitch Perfect MV Contest on February 23. Based off of last year’s Blue Economy event in Woods Hole, the contest aims to promote a flourishing economy here on the Island by summoning innovative ideas and bringing them into development. The Blue Economy event looked to promote business centering around the ocean, while Pitch Perfect aims to promote all types of Island businesses.

“This is a dynamic rock. Ideas are out there. Many folks do not know how to take that mental inkling and create something,” contest organizer and concerned citizen Dan Seidman said. “We have folks on the Island working on the internet of things. Others gather honey or produce other food products. Some make cosmetics and lotions. Aquaculture is taking hold. There is huge potential in that area. The Island works, but I believe it can work better for more folks by expanding the economic base and creating more year round businesses. Martha’s Vineyard will always be a second home market with a huge seasonal influx. For the lucky few that get to stay here year round, we need a vibrant base.”

Mr. Seidman hopes to see ideas that can be converted into something that will have impact. He said, “If a business idea looks encouraging, I would hope we can pair the person or people with a funding source. If you create a business, there is the potential to add people as the product or service is greeted by a receptive market.”

Nancy Gardella is the executive director of Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, and a sponsor of the contest. She said, “My hope is that the contest engages as many aspects of the Island business community as possible, from entrepreneurs to investors to consumers. It would also be fun to give away large prizes. Hopefully, the contest serves as an exchange of creative ideas, a mechanism to connect entrepreneurs to business development resources, and a few great ideas evolve into viable enterprises.”

Last year, Daniel Gaines, now a senior at the high school, participated in the Blue Economy event, and was able to reap the benefits. He said, “My previous experience at the Woods Hole Blue Startup Weekend was very positive. I would attend another entrepreneurial event in a heartbeat. Last year I was the youngest at the event. The second youngest was a senior in college. At Blue Startup Weekend, I pitched a jobs posting website for local Blue Economy jobs. Shortly after the event, a team member and I launched a startup company and incorporated in August.”

Executive Director of the Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative, Peter Temple, is a sponsor of the pitch contest. He said, “I think the Island is full of creative and entrepreneurial people. We have great artists, a giant sword-maker, great wampum and jewelry makers, sculptors, a gourmet coffee roaster, incredible wooden boat builders, organic farmers and people growing kelp or making flavored sea salt. The problem is the Island isn’t an easy place to start a new business. Real estate is expensive and there are no tax incentives or low interest government loans for new small businesses. We need a business incubator and inexpensive shared office space where entrepreneurs can work together and can get their businesses started and have access to mentors and money. Other communities have them, why not ours?”

Mr. Temple worries the Island is losing too much of its youth to the limited economy. “What we really hope to create are new, higher paying jobs so that kids who grow up here can find work that pays enough that they can afford to live and build a family here. We are losing our youth and will turn into one big old folks home if we don’t do something about it fast. Some of my Board members would love to see us develop a tech sector here, that’s how we got involved.”

Daniel will also be participating in the upcoming Island Pitch Contest. “This year I will be pitching the more complex version of last years pitch, since my company has more advanced features than job posting. Sea Blue Company is a platform where local maritime businesses can post physical products, time based bookings, like fishing charters and sailing lessons, and job listings. A lot of companies don’t have the time or resources to network or sell online, and that’s what we can help them with. Businesses can focus on creating high quality products, and Sea Blue Company can focus on networking them to as large of an audience as possible.”

Along with the development of his company, Daniel feels that the benefits of pitch competitions stretch beyond the prizes. “I love entrepreneurship, and I love the maritime culture of the Cape and Islands. The two blend well together in Sea Blue Company, and the learning experiences, the people I meet, and potential impact I can make are all invaluable. These events provide me with the chance to meet so many new people and learn more about entrepreneurship. Receiving input from a diverse group of people is critical to developing a strong company, and these events are perfect for it. The opportunity to meet with Score mentors is also an amazing opportunity.”

As for the future, Mr. Seidman hopes the contest will be deemed enough of a success to be continued. “If the Island is receptive and ideas stream out, of course we would continue. As we move through the process, we will glean what works and what can be improved upon. It can only benefit the people and this place.”