We have a winner
We have a winner! The Innovate awards took place last month, and Chelsea Hirst and her company Peurgon took this year’s prize of $5,000.
Hirst’s big idea is the BeauBin horse feeder, a plastic feed bin with a net attached to hold the feed in place. The BeauBin combines the two most common styles of horse feeder on the market: feed bins and hay nets. It’s easier to use than a traditional net, and does away with the wasted feed that can fall out of feed bins. Hirst has four horses herself, and a background in farming and agricultural science. When she had trouble finding a suitable product to feed her own horses, she came up with her own.
Hirst had been working on the idea for over a year when she came to Build Clever Companies (BCC) for help, which led to her submitting it to Innovate (which is put on by BCC). She says that having lots of people involved has been really valuable in the early stages of starting a business. Some of these people include BCC staff, who recommended she undertake a market validation exercise to make sure there were customers for her product, a marketing agency that helped her come up with a logo and a name, and Sharon Bryant, who mentored her through the competition.
Each of the top 5 entrants in Innovate 2016 was assigned a mentor, who helped them develop their business before the final pitch. The mentorship aspect of Innovate is new to the competition this year, and has made a big difference to everyone involved. In Hirst’s case, Bryant helped her put together a manufacturing agreement, set her up with a photographer, and provided lots of advice along the way. “Sharon has been so passionate about the product, you would think she has horses herself!” says Hirst.
Bryant was an early investor in TradeMe, and has been involved in other business and investment ventures, but this is the first time she has contributed to a manufactured product, so it was a learning experience for her as well. She gives Hirst all the credit for her win, but was happy to be a cheerleader. “Chelsea demonstrates many qualities of great entrepreneurs and has a vision not just for the launch and success of her initial product, but for a business that she is passionate about and which will make a difference to the equine industry.”
And Hirst is ready to take her product and her business forward, with everything she has learned from the competition. “I’m really looking forward to what’s coming next as a result of the win, and I’ll be making the most of any opportunities that follow,” she says. “It was a great experience and obviously it’s a big bonus to go away with a win, but even if I didn’t win I was so thrilled to be part of the competition. I definitely believe in what BCC are trying to achieve with Innovate and I was blown away by their determination to help all of the finalists succeed rather than focusing on finding just one winner.”