YBI Raises Excitement – and Funds – for Shark Tank Event

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Business Incubator on Thursday announced the six sharks for its fourth Shark Tank event, slated for Oct. 19 at Mr. Anthony’s Banquet Center in Boardman. 

Barb Ewing, CEO of YBI, said the event is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year. If fund-raising surpasses the $300,000 fundraising goal, the $10,000 prize for the winning startup will be increased to $20,000. If fundraising reaches $350,000, the prize will increase to $25,000.

Lenny Fisher, the CEO and owner of Handel’s Ice Cream and this year’s title sponsor, got into the fundraising spirit at Thursday’s kickoff event. With YBI already at nearly 40% of the fundraising goal, Fisher offered to match $10,000 given by someone in the room. One of the sharks, Herb Washington, added $5,000, and others chimed in until a $20,000 amount was reached.

“It is absolutely a fundraiser, and we make no bones about that,” Ewing said. “But it’s also a way for us to generate interest in the community in entrepreneurship, create a buzz, get people thinking about starting new businesses. So we really have fun, thank our donors and bring a lot of excitement to the main event in October.”

Last year, an 8-foot dancing shark visited businesses to record videos. This year, Ewing would like to see sponsors get even more creative, and YBI will offer a prize announced at the Shark Tank event for the best shark video.

Throughout all of the fundraising, Ewing wants to encourage people to have fun and come up with interesting sponsorships. Thursday’s announcement event was golf themed and held at Double Bogey’s at Southern Park Mall.

Beyond fun, for entrepreneurs, the YBI Shark Tank event can be about creating a new future.

Last year’s winner was Morgen Technology, a Cleveland-based company that has a smart device for hotels and multi-unit apartment buildings. Ewing said that company is about to make a major investment announcement. The first winner of the competition, Lindsay Watson of Augment Therapy, has raised more than $5 million and is about to take a major next step, Ewing said.

Denise O’Neil, co-founder of custom designer nail business Aura Beauty, and her brother, Michael Yaksich, pitched the business in front of the YBI sharks last year.

The experience has changed much for O’Neil, who said the business is set to launch this month. Using artificial intelligence through an app, the company’s patent pending technology measures and matches a person’s actual nails to the perfect artificial nail. The service will provide beauty subscriptions. Their idea did not win the competition, but what they learned from pitching before the sharks has helped make them successful anyway.

“Sadly, we didn’t win. But the experience was amazing, and it gave us the motivation to move forward,” O’Neil said. “Today, I’m really excited to announce that within less than a year of being part of YBI, we have our soft launch date of next Friday, June 16.”

Through the YBI network, O’Neil said they were able to secure their website and tech development team, do market research and have order fulfillment set up and ready to go. Through Case Western Reserve, Aura Beauty had an intern conduct consumer surveys for the business.

“Thank you YBI,” O’Neil said. “Thank you, the supporters for YBI. We wouldn’t be in this position right now if it were not for you.”

Ewing expects the contest could reach 100 applicants for this year’s event. The application to pitch is open now through Aug. 1 on the YBI Shark Tank website.

Businesses do not have to be technology-based or a health care company to pitch. She urges anyone with an idea to make their best pitch.

“It’s all about raising excitement, awareness and a buzz around entrepreneurship and getting people to think about how they can create their own business and the resources that are out there to help them do so,” Ewing said.

This year’s sharks, who will listen to the best pitches, challenge the entrepreneurs and seek a winner are:

  • Ellie Platt, owner/president of Platt Insurance;
  • Danny Catullo, vice president, Ecommerce at PPX Hospitality, Legal Sea foods, Smith & Wollensky and Strega Italiano;
  • Martha Bushey, partner at Manchester Bennett Powers & Ullman LPA;
  • Herb Washington, CEO/founder of HLW Fast Track Inc.;
  • John Masternick, attorney-at-law at Windsor House Inc.;
  • Chris Davis, local restaurateur.

Pictured at top: Lenny Fisher, left, CEO and owner of Handel’s Ice Cream and title sponsor for this year’s YBI Shark Tank, poses with five of the sharks. From left are Ellie Platt, John Masternick, Martha Bushey, Danny Catullo and Herb Washington. Not pictured is Chris Davis.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.