Someday soon the hosts of a backyard cookout could clean up by ripping their disposable plates in half and tossing them into a garden compost pile. When guests return the next summer, they could be noshing on vegetables grown in the same material.
That’s the dream of three entrepreneurs who have formed Easy Island Inc., one of 56 competitors to present a quick description of their business plan at the Dec. 7 Rhode Island Elevator Pitch Contest. The partners, all employed as researchers at Women & Infants Hospital, hope to use the pressed leaves of areca nut palm trees to manufacture tableware that’s 100 percent biodegradable. The business would also help preserve natural landscapes in India, where the leaves are harvested.
“From your table, our product goes right back to the earth,” said Nishant Sharma, a partner in the venture and a student at the University of Rhode Island. “There’s no other product on the market like it.”
The Easy Island team, which won a $200 second prize in the competition, isn’t alone in its desire to help the environment while growing a business. Rhode Island’s latest crop of innovators unveiled through the contest want to help build wind turbines, erect green buildings and promote recycling. This year four of the nine winners were selling solutions to ecological problems.
The Elevator Pitch Contest – sponsored by Rhode Island businesses, colleges and nonprofits – gives competitors just 90 seconds to pitch their idea to a panel of judges, about the same amount of time they’d have should they bump into a potential investor in an elevator. It’s a lead-up to the annual Rhode Island Business Plan Competition held in April, an event established to promote entrepreneurship and job creation in the Ocean State.
This year’s sixth annual pitch contest, held at the Rhode Island Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, was a huge success, according to organizers. A panel of judges awarded a total of $1,000 in prizes to the top nine presenters. Pawtucket’s Kippkitts LLC took the $300 top prize in the contest with a proposal for a portable device that could be used by EMTs to reduce a person’s core body temperature after a heart attack or stroke.