The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce’s Perfect Pitch competition, an event inspired by the television show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs compete for an opportunity to win funding through a live business pitch — returned to the Island after four years. Eight competitors took to the stage on Wednesday, March 29, to share their business visions at the Strand Theater in Oak Bluffs.
This year, Del Araujo delivered a pitch for an observation deck to his Aquinnah coffee shop named Aquila, and won himself the $10,000 grand prize, along with a standing ovation from the audience.
Since opening last year, Aquila has opened a second location at the YMCA, and Araujo said he’s excited to see how his business can grow in the future. “I’m super-proud to be here,” Araujo said, adding that he would not have been able to make it without his supporters.
Competitors were each given three minutes to make their ideas shine, and judges were given two minutes to ask questions or make comments.
Araujo made an energetic pitch, emphasizing why his idea would be beneficial to the Island as a “community builder.”
“One of the big things we see up at Aquinnah is a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to stay up there,” he told The Times. “We wanted to give them an opportunity to sit there and spend some time in Aquinnah, enjoy a cup of coffee, and all that good stuff.”
The panel of judges Wednesday consisted of individuals with business backgrounds and Vineyard ties: Hutker Architects founder Mark Hutker, Tim Brown, Martha’s Vineyard mortgage loan officer for Cape Cod 5, and Krista Pappas, a tech executive and investor. They had high praise for Araujo.
“Your passion to build this business, that is obviously needed up-Island, and … a place to meet and greet and have a cup of coffee,” Pappas said. “You basically expanded and found an opportunity where there was demand you didn’t even know would be so high, at the Y. We thought that your approach to bringing in the young community, too, to help you work was great as well. So, good luck and congratulations. You’re doing a great job.”
Selected contestants had a month to prepare for the competition, and received mentorship from the Chamber and SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands, a volunteer business mentorship program.
Aside from the grand prize, second prize was $5,000, and third was $2,500. And two businesses stood out for the judges other than Araujo’s Aquila.
Second place went to COAD, which stood for Community Adherence. Presented by father-son duo Bill and Owen Engler, COAD would offer a pill case connected to a phone through Bluetooth that would remind an individual to take their medicine. Up to five people can also be added to help send reminders.
The product is planned to have a test run at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital with doctors and patients this summer. The idea for the product stemmed from the family’s personal experience. The older Engler repeatedly forgot to take pills for a heart condition, and suffered a major stroke. “We were determined not to let this happen again,” his son said.
Brown said the judges “loved the idea.”
“You guys took a traumatic experience and turned it into something really, really viable, and something a lot of people can really take something from,” Brown said.
Third place went to MV Barkery, which was presented by Edie Prescott. She makes dog treats with her 20-year-old son Henry, who has autism, and founded the company as a way to find “meaningful employment” for Henry after he graduated from the Island’s educational system. “We make gourmet dog treats out of simple ingredients from our home in West Tisbury, with the dream of one day having a bakery storefront that employs other abled adults like Henry,” Edie said.
Hutker said the judges were “charmed” by Edie’s pitch. “We all felt that Edie and Henry had what it takes to actually do this and pull it off,” Hutker said, adding that the ideas seemed “scalable” and “wonderfully appropriate for Martha’s Vineyard.”
Carolina Cooney, executive director of the Chamber, said since she took over the organization last year, this competition was like “starting fresh” for her. “It was fantastic, it was amazing, it was better than we ever could have imagined,” she said. “We’re so proud of all of the contestants. They really pulled through and did an amazing job.”