For its second Product Pitch Competition, the Grommet, which curates under-the-radar products and launches new ones for its online marketplace, took over Fenway Park in Boston.
On Thursday, eight finalists representing the products with the most Grommet community votes presented their ideas at the ballpark in hopes of bringing their mocks and prototypes to reality. The winners, Increment O-Rings (a toy that is inclusive for all kids, including children with special needs) and Ecotonix GreenCycler (a dishwasher-friendly composting appliance) will launch their products on the Grommet's platform and receive special promotion to its community of 1 million members.
"We're all about leveling the playing field and giving a national audience to the best products," Grommet cofounder and CEO Jules Pieri told Fast Company.
Indiegogo will give Increment O-Rings, which won the ready-for-crowdfunding category, a dedicated campaign coach and will also waive fees for its fundraising campaign. Maeve Jopson and Cynthia Poon, both recent graduates at the Rhode Island School of Design, were inspired to create O-Rings after meeting a blind girl who had trouble finding toys she could play with her friends who can see. The set of stackable rings vary in size, weight, density, texture, and color to help children improve their motor skills.
The winner of the ready-for-market category, GreenCycler, will receive $1,000 to use toward online marketing and a retail placement opportunity with event partner Boston.com. Gail Loos created the GreenCycler to help households efficiently compost by shredding ingredients to a smaller size, which she said can break down the materials up to 10 times faster. "With such a strong retail partner, we can begin to change people’s waste disposal habits and eventually reduce the amount of food scraps American send to landfills, which is staggering," she said.
Based in Somerville, Mass., the Grommet has launched more than 2,000 products since its founding in 2008. Last year, it held its first Product Pitch Competition, and the ready-for-crowdfunding winner, THINX stain-resistant underwear, raised $19,350 on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, launching on the Grommet in January. The ready-for-market winner Frogglez, special swimming goggles for children, is carried in swimming schools.
For this year's competition, the judges evaluated pitches largely by how they align with the Grommet's values. "One of the distinctions is we think is the DNA of the company and its values. We don't just think of the product. It's also about the entrepreneurs' stories and how they deliver it," Pieri said. Though she rattled off some of those values—new technology, problem solver, eco-friendly, domestically manufactured—noticeably missing on the judging rubric are criteria about a product's commercial appeal or profit margins. "We don't expect the judges to think about that as much," said PIeri.
Joanne Domeniconi, Grommet cofounder and chief discovery officer, said Increment O-Rings and GreenCycler won the competition because they had "extremely effective pitches that showed where there was a definite market need that wasn't met."
Take a look through the slideshow above to learn more about the eight finalists.
[Fenway Park: JASON TENCH via Shutterstock]