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Oxford Entrepreneurs Jump in the Shark Tank

shark-tank1The entrepreneurs in the Shark Tank at FNC on Wednesday included “the new best thing in social media,” and a placeholder-advertising bathroom drink holder called the “Potty Buddy.”
Entrepreneurial Alliance and Innovate Mississippi were the primary sponsors of the event, which is based off the popular ABC television show “Shark Tank.” The shark tank format has a panel of judges — the sharks —  who offered the participants constructive criticism on their ideas. The “sharks” who agreed to participate come from a wide variety of business backgrounds.
For this event, they were:
Mark Yacovone, originally from Providence, R.I., who now makes his home in Oxford. Yacovone spent the bulk of his career in the Route 128 software belt outside of Boston. His career began at IBM in Kingston, N.Y., and included stints at Henco Software, Progress Software, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Mississippi and Gartner Group. It was at Gartner where Mark met his co-founders and started Brainshark, Inc. to develop technologies that transform the way business people create and share multimedia content.
Campbell McCool has spent his entire career in marketing and marketing-related activities. He possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in consumer and business-to-business marketing, traditional advertising, direct marketing, public relations, promotions, Internet and electronic marketing, trade show marketing, grassroots and social media.  In 1992, McCool formed McCool Communications (advertising) and The Calliope Group (public relations) in Atlanta, and grew them into one of the Southeast`s most respected boutique marketing and advertising firms.
Chip Wade is an assistant professor in finance in the Department of Finance and Economics at Mississippi State University. Wade directs the risk management and insurance program within the College of Business at MSU. He also holds an affiliate faculty position in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering within the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University. Wade earned his doctorate in finance with an emphasis in risk management from the University of Mississippi in 2010 and a doctorate in biomechanics from Auburn University in 2005.
Clark Love is the managing director of MortgageTrade, a new division of FNC, Inc. MortgageTrade offers products and services to the financial services and banking industries. MortgageTrade’s software and services help its customers analyze, acquire and sell mortgages more efficiently.
Joyce Freeland, of Freeland & Freeland in Oxford, has more than 20 years of experience in advising technology startups. She graduated with distinction from the Emory University School of Law and practiced at large firms in Atlanta, including Kilpatrick Stockton and Troutman Sanders. She has advised entrepreneurs and inventors from the formation of their companies and initial pitches of their business plans to angel investors.
The panel acted as theoretical “investors,” listening as the start-up entrepreneurs pitched their ideas and business plans.
The “Potty Buddy” features a 4.1-inch by 4.1-inch flat shelf made from polypropylene plastic with an 6.1-inch by 4.1-inch backside which will adhesively stick to the wall (either above the urinal or on the stall’s wall). On the front side of the 6.1-inch by 4.1-inch side will offer advertising space for a 4-inch by 6-inch’ advertisement sticker. The 4.1-inch by 4.1-inch shelf will have a rubber mat for gripping the cup, along with seven holes strategically placed for draining.
“The new product ‘The Potty Buddy’ offers a safer spot to place your drink while doing your business,” said presenter Patrick Cosgroves. “Public restrooms are frequently used, and studies showing 84 percent of the people polled remember seeing specific ads in the washrooms.  This has led to companies finding huge success advertising in restrooms.”
Fetch Chat, presented by Justin Kitchins, is a social networking application made for usage on your cellular device that seeks to re-create the art of making friends through modern technology. Users message random strangers who also use the application based on several options such as: gender, age, location, sexuality, and whether or not you want to message someone as being friendly or flirty. The application will not allow pictures of individuals. However, it will allow the option of sending pictures to your chat partner. This way, people can make new friends based on common interests as opposed to just trying to find someone to talk with that they think is attractive.
BackUp Baby, presented by Taylor Brame, allows parents the ability to provide their child with data that can be accessed for future genomic sequencing and comparison, all of which is under their individual control. Such data can prove beneficial in mapping the location of mutations within the child’s future DNA. Additionally, having their child’s original birth DNA backed up allows their children a tool for future health analysis techniques not yet discovered, placing their child ahead of the curve.
TelEquine capitalizes on existing telemedicine technology for use in equine and bovine veterinary medicine. These technologies include Wi-Fi enabled:
• stethoscopes
• fetal monitors
• pulse oxygen meters
• blood pressure cuffs
• position/fall detector pendants
Southeastern Scooters plans to strategically place 30 to 50 gas-powered scooters at four or five designated “hubs” around town. The company will engage the city and university regarding possible locations for the hubs. Users will be able to check out a scooter at any location where one is available and subsequently drop it off at whichever location is convenient when he or she is finished. The scooter will be checked out and back in, as well as started, by a mobile app that will be compatible with Android and iOS users. Customers will download this app, which will not only serve as a user’s access to the scooters, but also monitor usage and handle account billing.

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A presenter makes his pitch.

GreenHouse Hydroponics sells products that allow gardeners to grow plants 300 to 400 percent faster and use 80 percent less water than conventional gardening. Also because of the increased oxygen to the root zone, plants grown hydroponically are highly resistant to common pests and plant diseases. The demand for organic foods has grown steadily every year. Consumers spent more than $28 billion on store-bought organic produce last year alone.
Juntos, meaning “together” in Spanish, is an online marketplace that connects people who are looking to make similar major purchases, allowing them to buy things together. Unlike Amazon or eBay, Juntos will help buyers find, contact and communicate with other buyers before they make a joint purchase. Unlike timeshare markets, Juntos will allow for the shared purchase of any major item. Examples of such items include boats, season tickets, condos, recreational vehicles and bulk goods. Buyers will then be matched with a reliable legal service that will, if necessary, quickly work out a contract granting joint ownership of the purchased item.
Cotton’s Café Dog Treat Barkery offers healthy, local, all-natural dog treats. The treats are made from local farmers’ produce and provide an added comfort to health-conscious dog owners. According to the FDA, there were 33 pet food recalls in 2013, instilling fear in pet owners, creating confusion around pet food labels and leaving uncertainty about how to care for pets by providing good nutrition. Cotton’s Café offers its customers quality assurance and peace of mind. Every product is made with human-grade, all-natural ingredients, and the treats never contain artificial ingredients, colors or preservatives. Cotton’s Café simplifies the process of providing nutrition to dogs with a product label that contains only ingredients that are easily recognized and pronounced by the customer.
2014-03-19 18.01.30
Another pitch is well received.

“It was an absolutely fantastic event,” said Jon Maynard, president and CEO of the Oxford – Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation. “The reaction of the crowd and the entrepreneurs on hand was so positive that we plan to schedule these events regularly in the future.”
Maynard added that many in attendance commented they had no idea Oxford was the home of such an abundance of entrepreneurial talent.
“The challenge we face is that despite the great resources we have, such as the University of Mississippi and companies like FNC, we sometimes struggle to connect our eager entrepreneurs with the capital they need,” he said. “What we do possess is a great number of talented people who have successfully started businesses who can mentor would-be, start-up companies.”
Andy Knef is editor of HottyToddy.com. You can contact Andy about this article at Andy.Knef@hottytoddy.com

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