Bow ties made out of Lego bricks. A modern take on Mexican pastries. Jewelry designed by survivors of sexual trafficking.
These ideas were some of more than a dozen pitched Saturday at the second annual Powderhorn Shark Tank, an event where aspiring and established small-business owners competed for cash prizes to help push their work forward.
The showcase — a kinder take on the hit television show — is one of the main events held by the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association in Minneapolis. Inside the park’s recreation center, the entrepreneurs presented to an audience and five jurors, all of whom then voted for their favorite ideas.
The 13 competitors, some who have businesses up and running and others who don’t yet have a business plan, displayed a diverse set of services and products. There were budding thrift shop owners, contractors, clinicians, bakers, gymnastics instructors and more.
Each presentation flew by, with only two minutes to make a pitch and three more to take questions from jurors. Some used keynote presentations and videos, others wheeled in mannequins and other visual aids. Samples of homemade Korean hot sauce and granola were handed out to the jurors.
“It’s not just about me making money; I love what I do,” Angela Satcher, the owner of Anga Mangia Granola Me!, told the jurors and crowd during her pitch. “It’s about making the world a better place, one nut at a time.”
Throughout the presentations, competitors spoke about their desire to improve representation of different demographics in the small-business world. Women-led RTB Construction looked to teach more women and youth about home remodeling. The owners of Thrift Queens wanted to make a store that was welcoming to the LGBT community.
Powderhorn Park Executive Director Tabitha Montgomery said the event is all about supporting local entrepreneurs, who in turn help the economy in their neighborhoods.
“It is not easy to get up here and share not just yourself and your business ideas, but to be judged and juried for them,” Montgomery told competitors. “You all did an amazing job and displayed so much courage, so much articulation about your passions.”
In second place, RTB Construction and Deo est, a handcrafted jewelry line, won cash prizes of $1,000 and $1,500 in their respective categories.
In the “emerging” category, the jurors awarded a first-place $1,500 prize to Thrift Queens. The shop is moving into a studio space in the Seward neighborhood, and its founders are looking to raise enough money to one day open a storefront.
“I have been thinking about this idea for a really long time, for years,” co-founder Nickey Robo said. “Winning this really makes it feel like this is a very viable plan that people are going to get behind, and we’re really going to be able to make it happen.”
In the “established” category, jurors awarded a first-place $2,500 prize to Dulceria Bakery, a Mexican pastry bakery in south Minneapolis. Its owner, Dulce Monterrubio, is hoping to use the prize to host community events where people can learn about Mexican food and culture.
Born in Mexico City, Monterrubio said she wanted to use her bakery to break negative stereotypes people might have of immigrants. She makes vegan and gluten-free versions of conchas, empanadas and other baked goods. “And they are my abuelita’s recipes, so you know they are good,” she said with pride.
The Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, Monterrubio said, has both championed and challenged small businesses to think big and give back to their communities.
“Support local businesses,” she said. “We work hard and we work with love.”