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2018 Small Biz Salute Pitch Off Contest Winners: Where Are They Now?
  • 08 July 2019
  • Bonnie Stack

2018 Small Biz Salute Pitch Off Contest Winners: Where Are They Now?

In addition to everyday support of small business owners as the one-stop shop for all products and services to meet their unique business needs, The UPS Store also hosts an annual contest around National Small Business Month to celebrate and support entrepreneurs across the country.

This year, The UPS Store is revamping its signature small business contest in partnership with Inc. Magazine. The UPS Store Small Biz Challenge invites finalists to compete in live game show events that put their small business acumen to the test. The contest offers eligible small business owners a chance to win up to $25,000 and an editorial feature in Inc. Magazine.

Last year’s contest, the Small Biz Salute Pitch Off in Detroit, brought together three impressive small business owners who showed all of us what it takes to be a successful, smart entrepreneur. As the 2019 competition heats up, we checked in with the winner and finalists of last year’s small business contest.

Bryanne Leeming

Bryanne Leeming, Founder & CEO of Unruly Studios, Inc.

Winner, 2018 Small Biz Salute Pitch Off

Unruly Studios is a Boston-based startup empowering children ages 6+ to learn critical STEM and coding skills through active, recess-style play.

How did you use the prize money from The UPS Store Pitch Off contest?

We used the prize money from The UPS Store to build engaging, curriculum-aligned lesson plans for teachers to use when they bring Splats into their classrooms. The lesson plans range from “Capture the Flag,” to challenging students to build their own “Vote Counter” or become a “Splats DJ”! They come as a printed booklet in the boxes we ship to schools. We are now in schools in 22 states and our lesson plans have been a key driver of success. We also used our prize money to ship out our Splats on time to everyone around the world who had pre-ordered them!

What has been the biggest success or excitement for your business this past year?

I only get to pick one?! Between delivering product (on time!), exceeding customer expectations, raising a seed round and hiring a great team – it is hard to choose! It is rewarding to see my idea come to life with a great team behind me who brings a world of diverse expertise into what we are trying to do. 

What motivates you to keep running your business?

When we see teachers and parents share their Unruly stories and Unruly games with us, it motivates the whole team about the work that we do. The other day we had a teacher share a game with us on Twitter of exercise challenges they had done with their students in PE class. They were having Splats crunch and push-up competitions! Another teacher shared a “Karate Chop” game with us invented by a student in Hawaii. In a school in Massachusetts, we saw a student invent a Splats obstacle course, and in Rhode Island, we saw “Splats Zombie Tag.” It is incredible to see our mission and all this Unruliness spread by our users.

Any news to share about your business?

We recently closed our seed round, raising $1.8M in funding. The round was led by eCoast Angels, and saw participation from new and existing investors including The Alexa Fund, AT&T, Rough Draft Ventures powered by General Catalyst, Techstars, LearnLaunch, NextFab and other New England angel funds. This group of investors and advisors have been great. Their support of our business motivates us to create products that aim to change the future of STEM education.

Keitha Dendy

Keitha Dendy, Founder of Home Made Luxe

Finalist, 2018 Small Biz Salute Pitch Off 

Home Made Luxe is a craft subscription box service that delivers all the materials you need to create a gorgeous home decor project, along with written and video instructions.

How did you use the prize money from The UPS Store Pitch Off contest?

We used the prize money to initiate our first paid marketing campaigns, focusing on Facebook and Pinterest primarily. Before the Small Biz Salute Pitch Off Contest, we had not used any paid advertising. Through the contest prize money and with some help from Inc. Magazine as well, we tripled our Christmas sales last year. That momentum has led to great growth for our company.

How has your participation in The UPS Store Pitch Off contest helped your business?

It helped to confirm that the business idea that I formed in my craft room, just trying to help other women practice self-care, was really a legitimate business. I had accomplished a lot and didn't really realize how amazing it was until that moment on stage. The judges and the audience members who contacted me during and after the contest really helped me to understand my movement was bigger than I knew and I had to get out of the way! Since then, I have focused on being more strategic in my business and building partnerships.

What is next for your business?

We moved our operations to Austin, Texas, which has an amazing arts and makers scene. We are excited about crafting with the Austin community in a big way. We are also starting Home Made Luxe Kids, our children's line, so women can craft with their kids if they so desire.

What is your best advice for other small business owners?

Hire help sooner rather than later. I delayed making my first full-time hire because I thought why hire for something I could do myself, but I spent a lot of time in the weeds doing daily small tasks when my focus should have been on strategies to propel my business forward.

Megan Eddings


Megan Eddings, Founder & CEO, Accel Lifestyle

Finalist, 2018 Small Biz Salute Pitch Off

Accel Lifestyle is an ethical fitness apparel company for people who sweat and want to smell fresh, using a signature anti-stink fabric sourced and made in the United States.

How did you use the prize money from The UPS Store Pitch Off contest?

My team and I were able to partner with a well-known, high-quality cut and sew clothing manufacturer in the USA. We were having a challenging time finding a domestic factory, so I hired a production consultant who has more than 20 years of experience and multiple fashion patents. She has been integral in assisting with our supply chain. I also used some of the money for marketing materials: stand-up banners, brochures and a look book.

What has been the biggest success or excitement for your business this past year?

My team and I have been working on Accel Lifestyle for about three years, and to hit the “launch button” in May and to see the orders flood in was and is an incredible feeling. We are supremely appreciative of every single customer and love seeing everyone share on social media, leave reviews, and we’ve even had some repeat business already.

Another really profound experience was being asked to pitch to NASA iTech because of our proprietary fabric and the possible applications for astronauts.

Any news to share about your business?

I am thrilled to share that Accel Lifestyle just launched its men’s collection on May 24 and we will be launching our women’s collection later this summer. From fiber to finished garment, Accel Lifestyle is sourced and made right here in the USA. The anti-stink fabric I invented is now patent-pending in 120 countries.

What is your best advice for other small business owners?

Being a founder is beyond a full-time job, and there are obstacles that you never see coming. The most important aspect is to remain positive, true to yourself and your product, and surround yourself with a motivational team.

The UPS Store is so proud to see the successes of these incredible entrepreneurs. Learn more about this year’s small business contest here.

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