CuteNation Takes Latest $1,000 PitchBR Prize


Local entrepreneur Leah Haight’s upcoming mobile app to let users craft customized dolls took the $1,000 top prize at PitchBR‘s third competition of 2017.

Haight detailed the plans of her company, CuteNation, during the event, and she was joined by representatives of two other local startups: Noble Wave Brewpub, a planned bar and restaurant with a charitable mission, and Pojman Polymer Products, which develops and markets polymer products.

In addition to vying for the prize money, which was provided by the Louisiana Tech Park, the competing companies were able to get feedback from audience members and coaching from prominent business consultants and successful entrepreneurs. PitchBR events also give business owners an opportunity to develop connections to nonfunding resources, such as professional services donors and providers.

Judges for the event were Bill Ellison of nonprofit venture capital firm Innovation Catalyst, General Informatics founder and CEO Mo Vij, and Calvin Mills Jr., founder, CEO and president of CMC Technology Consulting. The event was held at The Pelican House Tap Room & Whiskey Bar.

Haight said in her pitch that the CuteNation app will let users choose from 500,000 possible design combinations for custom dolls, which will be recyclable and eco-friendly and cost about $20 each. Haight, who has experience in 3D modeling and game design, said the business will target girls ages 4-12 and their mothers, as well as collectors. The app will be free and available on iOS and Android, and the dolls will ship within five days of each order.

“The brand promotes inclusivity and love of self and others,” Haight said.

During Noble Wave’s pitch, CEO Riley Vannoy said the company aims to be the first true brewpub in Baton Rouge as well as an innovator in the service industry. Plans are for an opening in fall 2018 in the Electric Depot on Government Street, a former Entergy facility undergoing a multi-use redevelopment. The bar will offer craft beers brewed in-house as well as New York-style pizza. The twist is that staff members will be paid a salary and half of all tips will go toward the company’s charitable foundation, which will invest the money in the community.

Vannoy said Baton Rouge ranks near the top in beer consumption in the U.S. but near the bottom in the number of breweries per capita. “I think we can do better than that,” he said. He also noted that consumers are more socially conscious than ever before, and that that sentiment drives an increasing percentage of spending. “We see this growing trend in the demand for companies with more conscious business habits. Here at Noble Wave we’re ready to capitalize on both of those opportunities,” Vannoy said.

Long term, the goal is to eventually expand to other U.S. locations, with a focus on cities with underserved beer markets and highly engaged communities, he said.

LSU professor John Pojman delivered the pitch for Pojman Polymer Products, which he said is leveraging decades of research to create “cure-on-demand” products for artists, contractors and other professionals.

As a hypothetical example Pojman said contractors or homeowners looking to repair a piece of damaged wood, such as a door, currently have two basic options: an air-dried product that is applied to the wood and can require days before it is dry and ready for repair, or a faster-drying two-part formulation, like an epoxy, that requires carefully mixing two components in a particular ratio and that often results in much of the product being wasted.

Pojman said his company’s solution is an “on demand” wood filler that involves the use of a heat gun or sealing iron. “We can sand it, drill it, tap it, stain it, paint it, and in less than 15 seconds you have your repair done,” Pojman said.

Stay in the know!