MANSFIELD -- Dozens of big ideas were presented Tuesday night at the second annual Richland Idea Audition, but the best -- as determined by a panel of judges -- was presented by a detective from the Mansfield Police Department.
Ryan Anschutz and his girlfriend, Nichole Minnich, won $5,000 for their new business, Big Iron Concealment, which provides custom gun holsters for the tactical and firearm industry.
Anschutz began manufacturing the products in small quantities earlier this year after he struggled to find a “comfortable, concealable holster.”
“I started researching, and then I determined it would be best for me to manufacture my own,” he said.
When other detectives and officers saw this, they spread the word, and Anschutz soon had a handful of orders placed.
“They just started coming in via word-of-mouth,” he said.
To take his idea a step further, he brought it to the Richland Idea Audition on Sept. 18. Held inside Founders Hall at The Ohio State University-Mansfield campus, the event encourages Richland County residents to pitch their ideas for new products, businesses and services.
All the contestants had an opportunity to present their ideas to a panel of judges, but only six were chosen to speak to a live audience and another group of judges in the “final round.” These few had four minutes to explain their ideas for a chance to win a top prize of $5,000, or prizes of $2,500 and $1,000 for second and third place, respectively.
Anschutz plans to use his winnings to further grow his business. He’d like to streamline the manufacturing process in a way that produces “quality-consistent products at scale.” He also plans to use a portion of the funds for marketing and website development.
“It was definitely an exciting experience because there were so many great ideas. It was very humbling,” Anschutz said.
Emily Allen-Smith of the Odd Sprout Farm in Plymouth won second place for an idea to expand a farm to table dinner series that has been going on for the past two seasons.
She and her husband built a structure to host events this past spring and are continuing to add to it.
“It was exciting. This will make a big difference to us,” Allen-Smith said about the prize money.
She believes the key to her success is using local resources like those at Idea Works and the Braintree Business Development Center.
“I feel like I’ve been very prepared to do this. I’ve taken advantage of a lot of things that Mansfield has to offer,” she said. “I feel like the key to this town is just showing up and that’s what I’ve been doing all along.”
In third place, receiving $1,000, was Michael Zeiter, who pitched “Z” Electric Co. He has created a new electrical labor saver device and plates.
A new award, called the “Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award” went to Trent Baldruff. His pitch for “T’s Bees LLC.” earned him $250.
The remaining finalists included: Debbie Mack, Todd Newberry and Brendan Cain.
Judges were Victor Coleman of FirstEnergy, Julie McCready of McCready Interiors/Norwalk The Furniture Idea, Holly Troupe of The Boot Life, Chris Hiner of Richland Bank and Vinson Yates of OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby Hospitals.
The partner agencies who helped organize this event were: Braintree Business Development Center, Community Improvement Corporation of Shelby, Downtown Mansfield Inc., Idea Works, North Central State College, North End Community Development Collaborative, Richland Area Chamber and Economic Development, Richland County Foundation, SCORE of North Central Ohio, Small Business Development Center and The Ohio State University-Mansfield campus.