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‘Barracudas’ battle at digital pitching event

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A Greenwich, Connecticut, builder of tiny homes was awarded the grand prize at Westfair Communication’s Barracuda Tank Event.

“Greenwich and tiny homes don’t go together, but we’ve built 10 of them so far,” said Ken Pond, who co-owns the company, Craft & Sprout, with his wife Tori. “We’re having a lot of fun with the business. We just keep plugging away, and it’s the grind. That’s kind of what we’re all here for is the grind.”

The event held Aug. 7 at Saltaire Oyster Bar and Fish House in Port Chester, New York, recognized “barracudas,” or early-stage businesses, that have learned to navigate the rough waters of the business environment.

The competition allowed these entrants to submit videos describing their businesses. The top-10-submitted videos were selected, and an online business competition allowed the public to cast votes for which company they hoped would claim the top prize.

In their submission video, Craft and Sprout gave viewers a tour of one of their tiny homes.

Prior to starting their tiny homes business, Ken Pond ran his own construction company for two decades, while his wife worked as a property designer. Pond previously told the Business Journal he and Greenwich residents use the tiny houses as accessory offices, pool houses, cottages or full-time homes.

Coming in second at the Barracuda Tank event was Milestone C, an Orange, Connecticut, company that designs and instructs STEM programs for elementary, middle and high school students.

The company was co-founded by Cemocan “Gemo” Yesil and David Conelias. Yelis said that though children are receiving a “pretty good” STEM education in schools today, “I think where we’re failing them a little bit is taking what they learn in school and connecting the dots to what happens in the real world, in the industry.”

To help connect those dots, the company brings together managers, engineers, veteran aviators and scientists to lead internship experiences to equip students with practical knowledge and hands-on experience. The company said that lectures are minimized, and each program is built around a hands-on capstone project or exercise.

Back left to right: Dennis Roche, Burbio.com; James Jenkins, First Approach Wellness; Ken and Tori Pond, Craft and Sprout; Cemocan “Gemo” Yesil, Milestone C; David Conelias, Milestone C; Donvil Collins, VeeKast. Front left to right: Priska Diaz, Bittylab; Anne DiFrancesco, Grand Statement; Susanne Leary Shoemaker, Undercare.

Third place was awarded to Bittylab, a company launched by Priska Diaz. When her newborn son had trouble feeding, the Eastchester, New York, mom decided to invent an alternative to traditional baby bottles. She came up with the Bare Air-free feeding system, a line of bottles that deliver air-free milk and allow the baby to control the flow and pace of the feeding.

“I developed this product because I wanted to help my baby,” she said.

Diaz began selling the product in 2016, and since that time, the company has sold more than $1 million in product.

“The greatest thing was the feedback,” she said. “Moms were saying their babies no longer had acid reflux.”

Other top-10 finalists included Veekast, Upper Deck Fitness, Undercare Inc., Burbio, It’s a Yummy, Grand Statement and First Approach EA Worksite Wellness.

The event was presented by Westfair Communications, which publishes the Westchester County Business Journal, the Fairfield County Business Journal and WAG Magazine. It was sponsored by Gilda Bonanno LLC, Buzz Creators, Barnum Financial Group and Greater Hudson Bank.

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