Entrepreneur Katie Kehlenbach won the $10,000 grand prize in the Round Rock Public Library’s inaugural Biz.ability business plan competition on Tuesday.
Kehlenbach, who won with his barbell collar design, will receive $7,500, a $2,500 Dell computer system and a consultation with a Dell technology expert. Mandy Kelly was named runner-up and won $3,500. The competition was for startup entrepreneurs based in Round Rock.
“I’m really excited,” said Kehlenbach, who is the co-founder of Adder Lock. “It’s nice to hear validation, when you’ve been building a business for years and sort of continually being validated by users or interested people and people who see the problem you’re solving.”
Kehlenbach won for its patented barbell collar that allows for faster attachment and detachment compared to existing collars that make the process difficult. Kehlenbach said during his speech that the collar will allow lifters to increase their training time without additional hassle.
Kehlenbach said she was motivated to create AdderLock by her difficulty lifting barbells.
Kehlenbach said she was enthusiastic about participating in the competition, because although she didn’t win, she would come out with a business plan she could use.
“This boost of encouragement and understanding of all the tools we have access to through the library is super exciting,” Kehlenbach said.
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The competition required participants to create a business plan, and the library offered free ZOOM workshops to help them start, grow and maintain their business. They also met with an adviser from Austin SCORE, a nonprofit organization that mentors small businesses.
Kehlenbach said she would use the prize money to make the product with a 3D printer.
Kelly was chosen as a finalist for her business idea, Liberty Dog RRTX. His company makes dog food and treats in small batches after Texas Cabin Food guidelines for providing chemical-free dog food.
“I’m very happy to have been a finalist,” Kelly said. “(There) were a lot of great competitors (and) it was a great process, working with a SCORE mentor was great, I learned a lot.”
Kelly said during her speech that she was inspired to start her dog food business after the brand name dog food she used was recalled.
“Our mission is to free dogs from chemicals,” Kelly said.
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The competition started with 17 entrepreneurs from which six finalists were chosen. Finalists pitched their business plan to a six-judge panel that included an assistant city manager, local entrepreneurs, chamber of commerce management and Dell staff.
The other four finalists were:
- Colette Hammons, CEO of Mahacobo, a company that creates personalized wooden gifts
- Eric Kapinus, owner of VinoSwag, a company that helps other businesses promote themselves through personalized wine bottles
- Patricia Powell, who operates Round Rock cleaning services
- Robin Lawrence. founder of Lil Dumpling Publication, which aims to fill a void in the availability of English/Mandarin children’s books.
Competitors were judged on their business plan, effective use and impact of prize money, effective use of city library information and research tools, community impact and sustainability of their business model, according to the competition program.
“It’s always interesting to watch small business owners try to start their business and see their passions, their blood, their sweat and their tears,” said Mayor Craig Morgan. during the competition. “I’m excited to research key ways to continue to help entrepreneurs and build an ecosystem to ensure you’re able to grow here in the city of Round Rock.”
The competition was announced by the Round Rock Library in January and is modeled after the New York Public Library’s commercial competition.