After going virtual in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Naturally Boulder’s annual Pitch Slam event is back and better than ever.
The “Shark Tank”-style event returns Oct. 21 for its 17th year. Naturally Boulder, an organization that’s been around since 2005 to help support businesses in the natural and organic industry, will award $75,000 in prizes to promising young companies who wow the judges with their quick-hitting presentations.
The awards ceremony will be held in person at the Boulder Jewish Comunity Center and will also be streamed on YouTube. There’s also an Innovation Showcase, during which Naturally Boulder’s member companies can show off their goods and services, and a keynote speech from rePlant Capital co-founder Robyn O’Brien. Last year, non-alcoholic craft beer and wine maker Gruvi won the Pitch Slam and nabbed the people’s choice award.
The Pitch Slam winner gets a free booth at the Natural Products Expo East trade show and a guaranteed opportunity to pitch at the Expo East Pitch Slam. The top three companies in the competition share a pack worth nearly $75,000 that includes financial and legal advice, packaging design help and strategy consulting from leading marketing and public relations agencies.
This year’s Pitch Slam finalists are:
- Frescos Beverage Corporation
- Fossil Fuel Donuts
- Wild Barn Coffee
- Pastificio Boulder
- Core and Rind
Passes to attend the event are $89 for members and $109 for non-members through Oct. 10 (prices go up to $99 and $119 from Oct. 11-18).
The organization, which has expanded to Austin, New York, San Diego, Chicago and the Bay Area, also has a brand new executive director, Bill Capsalis, who took over the post in March 2021. We chatted with Capsalis to learn more about his background and what to expect from Pitch Slam this year.
Can you tell us a bit more about your background? What drew you to this new position?
I’m a 37-year resident of Boulder and have been involved with Naturally Boulder since the beginning. I’ve been a volunteer, a board member, a board chair and now the executive director. It’s been very exciting to see the organization grow and change over the past 17 years, and I feel fortunate to have been a part of most of it. I see this new role as an extension of my work in the community.
What’s the mission of Naturally Boulder, and how does Pitch Slam fit into that?
Naturally Boulder has always been about supporting the emerging entrepreneurs in food and beverage in Colorado. We support those companies through mentoring, educational programming, workshops, forum groups and events. We pride ourselves in creating productive collisions in the community in an effort to further the work of changing the food system toward a healthier way. The Pitch Slam and Innovation Showcase is a manifestation of this work because we get to hear from many new companies about their products and the event helps to expose their products to a wider audience — plus it is just really a fun time.
What do you find most inspiring or surprising about this event?
That innovation is alive and well. Just when you think you have seen every possible product that could be created, someone comes along with something completely new. The creativity and passion really come through.
How did COVID change Pitch Slam, for better or worse? What changes from last year stuck and why?
Last year, the event went completely virtual, which allowed us to introduce Naturally Boulder, the Pitch Slam, Autumn Awards and even the Innovation Showcase to people around the world. In previous years, people had to attend the Innovation Showcase to meet exhibitors and sample their products. In 2020, we pivoted to create tailored consumer product good boxes, with themes such as Fun and Functional Beverages and CBD functional products, that were shipped to consumers. People tuning in were also able to virtually vote for the People’s Award winner following the Pitch Slam, awarding Gruvi the award.
This year, we will be broadcasting the Pitch Slam and Autumn awards once again so people all over the world can experience the unique market that is the Colorado natural and organic industry.
What else do you wish more people knew?
I wish more people knew that simple choices can really make a difference and they do add up to a healthier life. I also want people to know about all the amazing companies and people that make up our industry and our community. Some notable members include Weller founded by John Simmons, Yasso with Andy Judd as CMO, Quinn Snacks founded by Kristy Lewis and Good Crisp founded by Matt Perry. Notable leadership members include Mark Retzloff, Joan Boykin, Steve Demos and Doug Green.
There is so much talent and so many great ideas out there — we just need to keep finding them and helping them in any way we can.