Adriane Deiulius, owner of The Sugar Mermaid, has been creating organic bath and body products for more than a year, but her desire to learn more about skin care and natural health remedies began more than a decade ago.
Her passion and drive began with her five children as she sought out vitamin therapy for their ailments and wanted natural options for their sensitive skin. Her dream has gotten even bigger since Deiulius won the $10,000 first-place prize at 100K Ideas’ Pitch For $K competition on Aug. 1.
“I couldn’t even believe it, honestly. It seemed like I stepped out of my body. I was so in shock but so thrilled obviously that I won,” Deiulius said. “I keep thinking what a huge blessing it is to have a program like this where someone who’s just starting out doesn’t have to shoulder all this financial hardship in order to start a business. If you’re willing to put the work in, you’re able to get a lot of great opportunities.”
Deiulius won the first of three pitch competitions that will be hosted by 100K Ideas and funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The second Pitch For $K will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 at Berston Field House, 3300 Saginaw St., Flint, Michigan. Submissions will be accepted between Sept. 1 and Sept. 30.
The first-place winner on Nov. 14 will receive $10,000, second place will receive $5,000, and third place will receive $2,500. The community is invited to attend the pitch competition and participate in live voting to help choose the top five innovators. Competition judges will select the top three winners.
“Pitch For $K is an opportunity for anyone with an idea to move it forward,” said Brandee Cooke-Brown, director of operations at 100K Ideas. “With the first competition, we saw individuals who had never presented before share their ideas with an audience. While it was a push out of their comfort zone, it helped create additional opportunities for the participants.
“The prize money will help the winners, but we believe all the participants widened their business network and had additional doors open with the help of Pitch For $K,” added Cooke-Brown “The competition has become another avenue for innovators and entrepreneurs to get started. We encourage anyone with an idea to take the leap and apply!”
The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce partnered with 100K Ideas for the pitch competitions to help participants be as successful as possible. Chamber staff identified mentors for each of the entrepreneurs presenting and helped choose the judges.
Deiulius said winning Pitch For $K will drastically change her business, which includes organic bath and body, CBD and essential oil products. The prize money will be used to expand her business, purchase bigger equipment and help her move into practicing naturopathy.
Currently, The Sugar Mermaid is located at The Grand Chalet Shoppes in Grand Blanc, 131 E. Grand Blanc Road, and Deiulius’ products are in two retails locations in Burton — Shift Holistic and Ojibwa Health. She prides herself on fun themes for kids, including unicorn poop, cupcakes and superheroes.
With new equipment, she will be able to better streamline her production process and improve packaging. The next step would be to look for more retail spaces to sell her products, Deiulius said.
“I’ll be able to do larger batches of the products at once. That’s going to be a huge time-saver for me. More time with my kids is what that means,” she said. “Having programs like 100K and the pitch competitions, it really helps shoulder the brunt financially. It’s really helping to give everyone a real chance at succeeding. You can see the money at work. Three people won substantial amounts of money to help their small businesses, and that’s a huge deal to a business owner.”
For the other entrepreneurs out there, Deiulius’ wanted to encourage them to think outside the box and just go for it.
“I think everyone who has an idea should do a pitch competition. It helps you develop your idea and will help you more clearly define what you want to do,” she said. “The mentors and program team all work with you so wonderfully. They are willing to do anything to help you. It’s a really wonderful thing.”
Deiulius said she hopes to give back to young entrepreneurs and new business owners in the future, just as mentors and business experts invested in her through 100K Ideas.
“When my store is larger and my business is better, I fully plan on donating to the program and helping other new businesses,” she said. “I really think that anybody who has even an idea of what they want to do for a business should look into working with people at 100K Ideas or University of Michigan-Flint Outreach. I really can’t recommend it enough.
“By helping new businesses, those people can, in turn, help others in the future. I think that’s the whole purpose of programs like that. The help keeps recycling itself, and that’s such a cool thing.”
For more information on the next pitch competition or to submit your idea, visit Pitch For $K.