Economic Development and Small Business & Startups

Start Garden invests $70K in five ideas

March 1, 2013
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Start Garden passes $1 million in investments and funds two mobile apps
Start Garden-backed Benefit is a mobile commerce platform that lets consumers combine their everyday shopping with charitable giving.

Start Garden put $70,000 into five projects this week, including $60,000 into a trio that returned for another round as part of Update Night.

The three ideas that reached the $20,000 level of funding on Update Night were Marcuski, a new water sport board; Cunable, an e-book retail model allowing for direct publisher-to-public exchange; and Benefit, a mobile commerce platform that combines shopping with charity.

Marcuski, created by Klynt Marcusse, is a new style of water board designed to combine wakeboarding and slalom water skiing. It maintains the control of slalom water ski while still being longer and narrower than a wakeboard.

“By combining the popular sideways stance of wakeboarding with the slalom capabilities of slalom water skiing, the Marcuski has a large potential to be marketed to all ages in the water sport demographic,” Marcusse writes on his Start Garden page. “A large-scale manufacturing company will be needed to supply the growing demand of the Marcuski.”

Cunable, created by John Grace, creates a way for publishers to sell digital content to consumers from any platform, and allows users to move their existing apps, music, e-books and similar content from one device to another.

“Consumers would be able to switch from an iOS to an Android-based phone without repurchasing the majority of their applications,” Grace writes on his Start Garden page. “Thus, consumers will have more choice and creators and publishers won’t be tied to a single dominant player to sell their content.”

Benefit, created by Derik Lolli, is an app allowing users to shop and donate to charity at the same time. Every time users make online and in-store purchases through the Benefit app, a small donation is made to a school or charity of the user’s choice.

“At launch, over 100 national retailers and merchants, including Best Buy, Gap and Target, will participate; some with retail donations exceeding 5 percent of the total transaction amount,” Lolli writes on his Start Garden page. “The Benefit app targets offline, in-store shopping where most retail sales occur. We also believe our mobile-first approach is designed to appeal to today’s savvy consumers who increasingly utilize their smartphones for help when making offline shopping decisions.”

The two $5,000 weekly investments went to Duba & Company and Two Women and a Hoe.

Start Garden selected Duba & Company, an online meat merchant looking to create a new market for heritage beef that is taken from animals raised on pastureland, ranches and small farms.

“Duba and Company, through both an e-commerce storefront and — eventually — a retail ‘nose-to-tail’ butcher shoppe (or butcher shoppes) will introduce a unique line of beef and other meats that will offer a wonderful ‘flavor palate’ to a marketplace which largely only knows the taste of conventional beef,” writes creator Jeffrey Duba on his Start Garden page. “Because of our ability to ship product anywhere in the United States via UPS or FedEX, ours is a national market. Further, we will work to develop strong partnerships with restaurants in Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Ann Arbor.”

Public endorsement selected Two Women and a Hoe, a full-service and sustainable indoor/outdoor landscape company that has been operating for about seven years and is looking to take the next step into franchising.

“My business, my ideas, my marketing quickly scale into the ideal franchise for women! My ideas are the perfect scenario for any woman who desires to own her own business,” writes idea creator Jan Coppola Bills on her Start Garden page. “Most of all, it is beyond doable. I started my business with $2,800, a wheelbarrow and a few garden tools. It works!”

Start Garden’s next Update Night is set for Thursday, March 28.

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