Moving Ideas Forward with 5×5 Night

(pictured above from left: Zoe Bruyn, Anissa Eddie and Liz Hilton)

by Bri Kilroy | photography by Alicia Magnuson and Two Eagles Marcus

Last year, we introduced you to Zoe Bruyn, who launched Stir It Up bakery and employed individuals with special needs to make up her team. In our January edition, we caught up with Anissa Eddie, who co-founded Malamiah Juice Bar with her husband, Jermale. In March, we met Liz Hilton and her 3-D knitting machine that has the ability to create wearable products that haven’t even been imagined yet. Other than being featured in previous editions of our magazine, these innovative women have another attribute in common; they are past winners of Start Garden’s 5×5 Night.

5×5 Night began as a monthly event held at Start Garden (40 Pearl St. NW #200). The company provides a helpful setting for budding entrepreneurs to access resources that are advantageous to getting their business off the ground. 5×5 Night was developed to encourage the sharing of ideas, giving startup business owners the chance to present their idea to an audience made up of other business owners at varying levels, local leaders and community members. Last July, Start Garden extended the invitation to these intriguing nights by hosting them in different locations each month.

“Hosting [5×5 Night] at a variety of locations exposes more people to the program who might attend or participate.” Start Garden’s Community Relations Director, Laurie Supinski, said.

They refer to this resurrection as 5×5 Night Hits the Road Tour and prior events have taken place in various Grand Rapids neighborhoods as well as Holland and Muskegon. Although the event location alters, the format remains the same: five people, five ideas, five minutes, five judges and a $5,000 grand prize (do you see a pattern here?). Each individual is also allowed to use up to five visual slides during their presentation.

The event starts agreeably at 5 p.m. where attendees arrive, network and grab a drink from beverage sponsors New Holland Brewing Company, Fenn Valley Winery and Farmhaus Cider before settling down to hear the five contestants present their ideas at 5:30 p.m. There is no limit to what the ideas entail and 5×5 Nights have heard everything from an initiative to offer free cosmetology classes in a Spanish-speaking beauty salon (Mireya Antonio Correa of Mc Beauty Salon, November 2016 winner), the introduction of a product that comfortably holds your items while keeping them close by during a workout (Kat Samardzija of Locker Lifestyle, May 2017 winner), and an all-in-one bowl that cooks, strains, serves and stores food in a single dish, cutting down on plate purchases and clean-up for college students with limited kitchen space (Justin Herd of OneBowl, June 2015 winner).

Following the presentations is the chance for audience members to discuss the presentations among one another while the judges determine to which idea they will award $5,000 to push it forward. They consider the need or problem the idea addresses, how it compares to competitors and how the person plans to spend the prize money. Those factors determine one winner, who is revealed at the end of the night.

Stir It Up’s Zoe Bruyn used her $5,000 to expand her business to a rented commercial kitchen and get a food license; Malamiah Juice Bar used their prize money to purchase a custom bicycle that could store and transport their juices to community events where they would sell them, launching Malamiah Mobile; Liz Hilton of KnitIt put her winnings toward researching the possibilities 3-D printing has, such as a bag that wirelessly charges your laptop via a conductive yarn that would convert body heat to energy.

“It’s a great way for people to get their idea out there and expose it to the public,” Supinski said. “Although there is only one winner, everyone gets value from the event through the judges’ feedback and networking with other attendees. We’ve been told that networking and the connection with resources is even more valuable than the money–there is so much value in just being part of the competition.”

Whether you are on the verge of launching a business or you are interested in hearing what your local entrepreneurs are concocting, 5×5 Night brings fascinating opportunity to everyone. The next one takes place August 29 at GVSU’s Muskegon Innovation HUB (200 Viridian Dr., Muskegon). The event is free, open to the public and open to all ideas. If you want to join the audience, just arrive at 5 p.m. at the MiHUB. If you, yourself, are ready to share an idea with the community, submit your plan at Voting closes August 21.

Keep those ideas coming, Grand Rapids, and stay posted on upcoming 5×5 Nights to witness the support that surrounds them when shared.

What: 5×5 Night by Start Garden
Where: GVSU’s Muskegon Innovation HUB (200 Viridian Dr., Muskegon)
When: Aug. 29, 5:00 p..m.
Cost: Free

Bri Kilroy is a Grand Valley and AmeriCorps alumna who learned to type through vigorous Mavis Beacon trainings. She also passes as an artist, illustrator and author of this bio.



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