March 25, 2023 Supporting Manhattan-area entrepreneurs, businesses, events

Inaugural StartUp MHK Pitch Competition Awards $15,000 to 3 Local Startups.

Over the course of 2017, local entrepreneur Michael Honeywell set out to bring together a new community of like minded business professionals, entrepreneurs, and students who value local small business in the form of startups and entrepreneurship.

Honeywell named this movement StartUp MHK, after successfully building a similar community in Jefferson City, Missouri, several years ago.

StartUp MHK has one mission: to award local entrepreneurs with seed capital. This was the first public/private event of its kind in Manhattan. Honeywell began the movement by organizing several public events that included local entrepreneurs who told their story. These events were used to mobilize like minded individuals to participate in StartUp MHK.

After Honeywell cast the vision at these community events surrounding StartUp MHK, registration opened for the main event. A one day, $15,000 pitch competition, hosted by People’s State Bank.

The pitch competition was held on Saturday, September 23rd, at People’s State Bank in Manhattan. Over 30 local entrepreneurs entered the competition, where they had only 3 minutes to pitch to a panel of judges, and exit the stage.

“This area is of course known for things like Kansas State University, and the future home of NBAF, but not necessarily as a place to start a business. There is a great entrepreneurial spirit in this city. That was made very clear with the turnout we had at StartUp MHK,” founder and CEO of JNT Company, Jeff Hake said.

Throughout the morning and afternoon, judges heard ideas and concepts including stem cell therapy, drone technology, art & humanity efforts, a trail building and development company, cancer treatment technology, business marketing technologies, fitness & wellness businesses, food & drink industries and more.

After the last pitch, the judges debated for over an hour who the final three entrepreneurs would be awarded seed capital.

 Photo by Peoples State Bank.
Photo by Peoples State Bank.

The grand prize of $10,000 went to Chris Zachary, founder of Pivvot (since rebranded as IRIS,) a platform that uses automated video customization to give small business owners the power of video without the time, money, and hassle.

“Startup MHK was a fantastic opportunity to not only generate seed funding, but also analyze my idea, present it to others and gain feedback from a variety of industries and backgrounds. It also was an opportunity to meet and create relationships with other entrepreneurs in the Manhattan area – we need to stick together and support each other in order to grow, and this was a fantastic cultivator of that goal,” said Zachary.

Second prize went to Austin Pfannestial, founder of Precision Microwave, an advanced, minimally-invasive, thermal therapy device which can help doctors provide more effective, cost-efficient, and faster treatments for cancer patients.

“We plan on using our prize winnings to finish building third-generation prototype devices which can be used in detailed animal studies that can provide proof-of-concept and unlock more funding,” said Pfannestial.

Precision Microwave is in the feasibility stage and is finalizing design of a clinical product to enter a detailed safety and efficacy study and begin the FDA clearance process.

Pfannestial said, “events like StartUp MHK are great for new businesses because they provide credibility. I was surprised at the number of participating companies and the quality of competition. I left the competition feeling very positive about the startup culture in Manhattan.”

Third prize went to Blake Benton, founder of Bridges, a non-profit referral service which connects adult stem cell therapy to patients with incurable and terminal illnesses.

Benton said, “the funds awarded are currently being used for the strategic development of new technology systems that will be used in future initiatives.”

Bridges is currently still in the development stage.

“StartUp MHK stands out from other entrepreneurial competitions due to the high level of hands-on support and knowledge offered by the business development and pitch practice workshops. The program directors and area business leaders involved made a point to showcase all the resources Manhattan has to offer for small businesses while ensuring all competitors were provided the tools needed to succeed in helping their business be prepared to compete at high level,” said Benton.

 Photo by Tim Weddle.
Photo by Tim Weddle.

“There are individuals who desire to start small businesses that we don’t know exist and who do not move in our networking circles, but they are right under our noses and we need to invite them to engage with the community,” event sponsor and owner of Open 4 Business, Jeff Koenig said.

Darin Miller, owner of Iron Clad and also an event sponsor said, “knowing that there are other people who want to start something can encourage others to try something.  Manhattan will benefit from this understanding and needs to be encouraged by an economic movement around the nature of startups.”

“StartUp MHK will increase awareness inside and outside of the community that the Flint Hills region wants to grow, support and promote local entrepreneurs and make the area into a regional attractor for small businesses doing business around the world and at home.” said Koenig.

When asked about the future of this event, Koenig said, “as a small business consultant and angel investor, local entrepreneurs are my currency.  Without great people who have great business ideas, investment capital and knowledge leaves the local community to be leveraged elsewhere.”

Planning for next year has already begun.

Jeff Hake said, “there are a ton of great ideas out there and a lot of opportunities to grow the event. We don’t want to comment prematurely until things are confirmed, but I can say that we have high hopes for a bigger and better series next time.”

We absolutely loved being a part of StartUp MHK and we were thrilled with the way everything came together for year one. We are excited about the feeling of creating something that will get Manhattan noticed in the entrepreneurial world. We can’t wait to help it grow in the future,” Hake said.

StartUp MHK was sponsored and made by possible People’s State Bank, Open 4 Business, JNT Company, Alliance Realty, Iron Clad, and The Fellow.

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