CLEAR WINNER: Amy Blansit presents her Solely Jolie makeup startup at the Pitch Pit competition, where she took home a $10,000 prize.
With Spin 66 win, Solely Jolie plans next steps
Solely Jolie, a 2-year old company with a product that leaves makeup brushes residue-free, won the Pitch Pit competition at the fourth-annual Spin 66 Innovation Summit held May 5 at The eFactory.
Spin 66 brings together entrepreneurs and innovators from across southwest Missouri to network, hear new ideas from peers and colleagues, and take part in activities that foster inspiration. The pinnacle event is the Pitch Pit, where five entrepreneurs present their business ideas in six minutes or less and field questions from a judging panel.
As the judge’s choice, Solely Jolie creator Amy Blansit walked away with $10,000 in cash and business services.
“The first thing I’m investigating is working with a company like (Springfield ReManufacturing Corp.),” Blansit said after winning.
Her silicone product currently is manufactured in China, but Blansit hopes to move production to the United States, where her company would be better able to monitor quality. She’d also like to add antimicrobial and antifungal properties to the $15 product, which is designed to limit dirt and blemish-causing bacteria on makeup brushes.
“The market is huge for the product,” Blansit said, echoing the nod judges gave her in the Pitch Pit.
Solely Jolie has a target market of women 15 years of age and older.
Other startup presenters were Chad Boschert of Apt Crowd, which encourages internet users to find better answers inside online forums via faster search tools; The Future, presented by Todd Green, an entertainment retail concept to teach children the basics of building robots, flying drones and coding; The Wingman Harness, presented by Dr. Chris Spinelli, an apparatus for those with special needs used to increase mobility and improve motor function; and RockDolly, presented by Cameron Eaton, an all-in-one public address system that combines a bass and guitar amplifier, mixer, and effects rack for easy transfer.
“The judges certainly had an extremely hard decision,” said Cody Stringer, the event’s lead organizer and a research project manager at Mercy Research and Development.
The judges this year were Jason Arend, who won in 2016 with Myke Bates and their Eagle Speak business communication app; Zola Finch, director at RMI; Melvin Sims, a law associate at Polsinelli PC; and John Helms, manager at Abacus CPAs LLC.
With roughly 150 people in attendance, other Spin 66 features this year included panels, speakers and parties.
A late morning panel titled, Designing Success, invited entrepreneurs Mary Louise Helbig, Josh Burch and Charlie Daniels to discuss building their own startups and answer questions on achieving success. Afternoon Ignite Talks allowed speakers Jarad Johnson, Larnelle Foster, Jayme Sweere, Megan Buchbinder, Mark Steiner, Josh Sullivan and Charlie Rosenbury to share their personal and professional passions in a challenging speaking format that’s presented in five minutes. Blansit was announced Pitch Pit winner during a happy hour to end the conference.
The entrepreneurial victory comes after a long, strenuous stretch for Blansit, who works by day as a kinesiology instructor at Missouri State University. Blansit also leads programming at The Fairbanks, an old school turned community center in the Grant Beach neighborhood that her husband bought before he died of cancer in 2013.
She also participated in The eFactory’s 12-week business accelerator program to build and refine startups and their minimally viable products. It concluded just four days before Spin 66 with Demo Day, another round of high-pressured presentations.
“It’s been insane,” Blansit said. “From 7 a.m. in the morning to sometimes midnight to make sure all things were getting done.”
But it all started with a basic but compelling idea.
“Makeup is extremely messy,” she said.
Blansit used to wipe excess makeup from her brushes onto the back of her hand. Then she accidentally discovered a silicone bracelet she wore captured the excess much better.
Solely Jolie was born.
Blansit now is looking to expand her product into silicone sleeves to wrap around the arms of makeup artists.
“Hands are busy,” Blansit said, adding it can be hard for makeup artists to manage the tools around them.
A similar product made of cloth is available, she said, but she hopes her own sleeve would last longer and be something consumers might purchase multiple times.
Blansit currently is working with Hotel Vandivort to test Solely Jolie in its rooms. She said hotel officials gave her expense data related to washcloths that often get thrown away due to the makeup stains of guests.
“They gave us the market information we were trying to find,” she said.
With 50 units, Hotel Vandivort has about 200 washcloths – that’s four per room and about $5 per cloth.
“Within one year,” Blansit said, “they’ve already had to replace about half of those.”
Blansit plans to spend some of her prize money on creating a better look for Solely Jolie and its website through Revel Advertising.
“One of the suggestions from most people who are familiar with the product said we needed a new, cleaner look,” Blansit said.
She’s already invested several thousands of dollars in patents that are pending. With her Solely Jolie team and Springfield attorney Jon Bay, the patents have been in process for about a year and they’ve incurred additional expenses to resubmit information.
Blansit has had to resubmit her product drawings – turns out, it can be difficult to draw a flat, silicone pad – and for inconsistencies in the spelling of the word palette. Palate and pallet have caused confusion for reviewers in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
To reach her goals, Blansit said it’s all about inventing, adapting and persevering.
“When you have an opportunity like this, you have to take it,” she said.