Drone Pilot SchoolThe Recorder – Sober housing pitch wins first ‘Take the Floor’ event

December 12, 2021by helo-10

GREENFIELD — Five up-and-coming businesses took part in the first of four rounds of the “Take the Floor” pitch competition at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center Saturday afternoon.

At the event, co-sponsored by Athol Credit Union, Franklin First Federal Credit Union, Hawks & Reed and Mesa Verde, a group of two entrepreneurs took home a $100 cash prize as well as a chance to participate in the final pitch series in June, which will offer $10,000 to the winner.

Greenfield resident Mickey Balsavich and Turners Falls resident Tabitha Rantanen were selected as the winners Saturday for their pitch of creating Keyara’s Haven, a women’s and children’s sober house intended to help those on the road to recovery from addiction.

Balsavich and Rantanen, who said they are both in recovery, said being named winners was touching and they hope to take the time from now until June to start building connections and bolstering their final pitch. Rantanen said the name of Keyara’s Haven comes from her late daughter.

“This is something really close to our hearts,” Balsavich said after the event. “It’s the first step in the right direction.”

Rantanen said they have been working on this idea over the past year.

During their pitch, they envisioned owning a house that could “be a home” for children and their mothers in recovery so they could “be the best mothers and best possible supports for their families.”

Contestants presented to the audience and a four-member panel made up of state Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner’s Chief of Staff Dani Letourneau, Athol Credit Union President/CEO Courtney Fifield and business/nonprofit consultant Chad Fuller.

Each panel member received two votes while members of the audience were allowed one vote. The panel was also allowed a question and answer session with the entrepreneurs and audience questions were allowed if time was left over.

During Balsavich and Rantanen’s pitch, Blais said the two women were putting forth a noble idea and picking up the slack where the government is failing.

“It seems like a service,” Blais said, “and being in government, it’s something the government should be doing. … (You two) are stepping up to fill that gap.”

Letourneau agreed with Blais, saying “this is a hole that is too deep” and it’s great that Balsavich and Rantanen were bringing it to light.

Balsavich said they are trying to receive funding and the $10,000 grand prize would be a good start. They are seeking to stay in Greenfield, where a significant amount of resources are available.

“Greenfield has so many local resources,” Balsavich said, “that it’s an ideal spot.”

Other pitches

The other entrepreneurs, who are still eligible to return in the next “Take the Floor” event, featured a wide variety of product and service ideas ranging from search and rescue drones to craftable shoe kits.

Anthony Novak, who works in Orange and lives in Petersham, presented his idea for Copper Viking Studio, which would help local “makers, vendors and small businesses elevate their business.”

His plan consisted of using 3D printers to help local artisans produce more of their products while also helping them go through a quality assurance process to better improve their creations.

Athol resident Cassandra Houde presented her idea for First Footsteps, a business that would sell take-home shoe kits that can be turned into footwear for children while also teaching people new skills.

She said her business plan is “all about giving back” while creating opportunities for people to learn a crafting skill that may lead them into a new industry.

Chad Gelinas, also from Orange, presented his plan for Sage Drone Media, a freelance company that would provide drones to help with search and rescue missions or marketing opportunities for businesses that need aerial coverage, like a golf course.

He said he has a pilot’s license and could also use his skills to train firefighters and other emergency officials to get their own certification for drone use.

Kelly Surprenant, of Wendell, presented her idea for an upcycled clothing and embroidery business called The Rainbow Rack. She said she became disillusioned with mass producing clothing and wanted to create special pieces of clothing that are wearable while also artistic.

“It’s not just a piece you have in your house,” she said. “A necklace needs a person wearing it.”

She said she wants to “bring cool, unique pieces to the people of Franklin County.”

The next event

Max Fripp, director of innovation and entrepreneurship at Greenfield Community College, which organized the event, said Saturday was a great start to “Take the Floor” and is the first step in helping the county’s creative economy.

“I think it has felt inclusive and safe for people to pitch,” Fripp said while votes were being tallied. “The businesses that just pitched resonate with what Franklin County is about.”

He said the next three events will be held in February, April and May, and new entrepreneurs should keep their eyes out for advertising and press releases relating to sign-ups. There are still plenty of spots to sign up. The “Take the Floor” Facebook page will also post updates.

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.

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