DERRY — A mobile woodblock print workshop based in Newmarket was the winner of a pitch competition Thursday night that earned them $25,000 from the Regional Economic Development Center.
BIG INK co-owners Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnett of Newmarket embraced each other when judges announced they had won a $25,000 check for their new small business.
Castonguay thanked the judges at the REDC for the chance to compete.
“As a for-profit arts business, there’s not a lot of opportunities like this,” Castonguay said.”
Judges of the Granite State Growth Competition, which included incubator directors and economic development leaders, scored the five finalists who competed Thursday based on their product or service, pitch performance, experience and other criteria.
Castonguay and Burnett were up against the founders of NH Tap, a water filtration product manufacturer based in Jaffrey; TrueProp Software, a propeller testing application company based in Durham; YouScheduler, a Durham-based college class scheduling and data analytics startup; and Cyborg, a gamified mobile fitness platform based in Manchester.
Each pitch was scored by judges Will Arvello, director of the state’s division of economic development; Debbie Morin, chief financial officer of the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority; Mary Ann Kristiansen, executive director of the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship; Joshua Cyr, director of Alpha Loft; and Kurt Simione, owner of Technology Seed.
During their pitch, Castonguay and Burnett displayed a giant print and the wood-carved board from which the print was made.
“It is essentially a hand-made stamp,” Castonguay said.
The two met as art students in Manchester and started the company as a way to bring artists together and demonstrate an old-world art form to the community. Participants pay $300 and learn how to create their own prints through video tutorials. Then all the participants in a given cohort get together in a public event to make their prints.
Castonguay said they have grown by 25 percent in the last year and expect another 25 percent growth in the coming year. They said during the pitch that they would use the award money for a new marketing campaign by Haigh + Martino in Portsmouth.
With stronger marketing, they expect they’ll be able to double their events and hire more staff.
Emcee Peter Rayno said Thursday’s finalists were winnowed from about 35 initial applicants. The first rounds of pitching reduced the group to 10, then following rounds reduced it to seven and then five.
The competition headlined the 25th anniversary celebration of the REDC at Birch Wood Vineyards in Derry.