Pitch Night

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GREENFIELD — As Mayor Chuck Fewell handed a shining plaque to Lauren Zych, announcing her as the winner of Greenfield Main Street’s first-ever pitch night competition, the 24-year-old held back tears.

Zych gave a beam of pure pride and joy at the cheering crowd assembled at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts. She’d just won a prize she’d dreamed of since she was a little girl; in a few short months time she’d have the funding, space and facilities to run her very own bakery in downtown Greenfield.

It was the best birthday present ever, Zych said.

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Zych was selected as the winner of Greenfield Pitch Night, a special event held by Greenfield Main Street partnered with the Indiana Small Business Development Center and several other local organizations. Her prize package consisted of approximately 800 square feet of downtown tenant space, rent-free for one year, business set-up services donated by local professionals and one year of free membership to the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Greenfield Main Street.

For the final round in this “Shark Tank” style competition, each contestant had five minutes to persuade a panel of judges to select their business for the grand prize. A five-minute question and answer period would follow.

The judges for the pitch night competition consisted of a panel of seven local entrepreneurs and community leaders, said Skip Kuker, Hancock County Economic Development Council Executive Director.

Each of the businessmen and women on the panel were selected by a special committee of Greenfield Main Street because of their efforts individually and collectively to help Greenfield prosper, Kuker said. After the 17 original contestants were whittled down to six, it was up to the judges to make the final decision Tuesday, he said.

Their decision would be based on which applicant had the most sound plan for a viable business that would help downtown Greenfield grow, said Lewis Wooton of Wooton Hoy, LLC and Greenfield Main Street, another judge for the program.

Zych was first in the line up. She took the stage with all the confidence in the world, she said. At least on the surface.

She began with handing out some of her famous made-from-scratch cookies to the panel, a sample for them to enjoy during the presentation. It wasn’t a bribe, she assured them with a giggle.

“What about us?” asked an audience member from the crowd.

“Oh you just wait,” Zych quipped, signaling to the back of the theater. A group of her little helpers — volunteers she’d recruited from Wilkerson Dance Studio — made their way throughout the crowd, handing out more complimentary treats to the event’s spectators.

The Butter Chip Bakery is an online bakery that opened in January; it specializes in gourmet cookies and cakes that fit everyone’s tastes, she said. Orders are taken online and delivered within 24 hours. Given the space, Zych would use it to add a storefront to offer coffee, tea, breakfast pastries and more.

Her menu includes unique flavors of cookies ranging from dark chocolate salted caramel, hot fudge sundae and peanut butter and jelly, alongside more traditional classics like chocolate chip and snickerdoodle.

The area would add to the smalltown atmosphere of downtown Greenfield, she added. It could be a spot where students could hang out and do homework after school, and a pit stop where downtown employees can grab a cup of coffee and a snack on their way into work in the morning.

Last May, Zych received an associate’s degree in Hospitality Administration, Bakery Management. She has worked in food and customer service for more than eight years, she said.

“I’m a whopping 24 years old as of today,” Zych said to the panel Tuesday night. “So even being able to be here is one of the best birthday presents I could possibly ask for. But the amount of experience I have is exponential to my age.”

“I know all the ins and outs of this business,” she added. “Being in a bakery setting is what I love and where I grow.”

Pitch Night judge Chris Baggott, of ExactTarget, Compendium, ClusterTruck, Tyner Pond Farm, Griggsby’s Station and The Mug, said this will be an exciting opportunity for Zych as she takes advantage of her jumpstart forward with her business in the coming months.

Greenfield needs bakeries, and she had a practical model toward thriving in that industry, Baggott said. Given the limitations of the available space, it was prudent of Zych to recognize she was going to need to bake outside her storefront, thus saving money on installing kitchen equipment.

And the cookies were absolutely delicious, he said.

“She really had a well-thought-out business plan,” Baggott said. “She just seemed to have the right experience. And she seemed like she would go to work and she understood her business very well. It’s a solid idea.”

The Butter Chip Bakery does not yet have an opening date because it will depend on how quickly the storefront is able to be refurbished and ready for the employees to move in, Zych said. Ideally, she would like to be ready to open by October, she said.

It’s hard to believe how fast her childhood dream is becoming a reality, she said.

“I feel ecstatic, I’m so in shock that I can’t believe it at all,” Zych said.

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Six entrepreneurs presented at Pitch Night Tuesday. These are the other contestants that competed for the grand prize.

Northstar, by Matt Yancey

A business that uses drone and artificial intelligence to survey farmers’ fields and relay back information that will help them maximize crop growth productivity. 

Joy to the World Baking, by Sarah Whinery-Smith

A baking business selling various cakes, baked breads and more at local Farmer’s Markets, seeking expansion so the business will have a certified kitchen location.

42 Wellness, by Stacy and Jessica Franco

A celiac-friendly bakery that caters to customers’ special dietary needs including gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan.

Common Ground: Work and Connect, by Carol Robertson-Plouch

A subscription working space that would help users connect, network and collaborate. 

Leap Talent Group LLC, by Doug Applegate

A recruitment solution firm that would focus on delivering talent to employers through cultivation of local professional and social capital.

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