Bentonville entrepreneur April Roy won a $15,000 cash prize Tuesday in a pitch competition that featured 10 startup businesses in Arkansas. The Shark Tank-like event handed out $31,000 in cash prizes to four entrepreneurs.
Roy, founder and owner of femPAQ, provides emergency feminine product kits that are convenient and sustainable. Along with providing feminine products, the business focuses on efforts to overcome the stigma associated with menstruation.
FemPAQ was founded in April 2018 after Roy and some friends were vacationing in Los Angeles and one of them unexpectedly had her period, and they had difficulty quickly locating a much-needed feminine product. Roy returned home and discovered that there were no providers of emergency kits that included pads and tampons.
"This really has become more than creating a product," Roy said Tuesday after her win. "This has become a movement to remove the stigma surrounding periods."
The kits provide women with the security of knowing they have quick and easy access to feminine products when they need them immediately, according to Roy. "We think we can spread this nationwide and eventually globally," she added. "This is all about giving women access to adequate menstrual hygiene gear."
The company has focused on placing products in the travel and hospitality sectors, especially working with airlines, hotels and travel stops. The kits include a panty, pad, tampon, liner, ibuprofen and a chocolate treat.
The virtual pitch competition, called Pitch N' Pint, featured businesses owned by women, veterans and people of color who suffered economic losses from the pandemic and have annual sales of under $100,000. The 10 contestants ranged from a Spanish tutoring business to a medical coding company to a pickle maker among others.
The pitch competition demonstrates the thriving entrepreneurial community across Arkansas, said Wayne Miller, executive director of the Little Rock Venture Center.
"These pitch competitions, these things we do, are not an end, but rather a beginning as we get to know you and build a relationship with you," Miller told the startup founders. "We're inspired by you, we're behind you, we want to make Arkansas businesses great."
Second place, and a prize of $10,000, was awarded to Edamame Films and its founder, Ayana Baraka. The company produces, shoots and writes commercials and other video productions. It promotes education and training for minorities interested in film. "Those from disenfranchised communities are under-represented behind the camera," Baraka said in her presentation.
Samantha Stewart and Certified Pies of Little Rock won $5,000 for taking third place. The company makes pizzas from fresh ingredients and plans to open a flagship store in Little Rock. The business was started in October 2020, during the pandemic, and has provided only curbside pickup.
The $1,000 prize for audience favorite, voted on by all participants in the Zoom meeting, was awarded to WoofCat and its founder, Nicole Winstead. The company produces pet treats for dogs and cats.
The three-judge panel that selected the winners included representatives from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Urban League and the Diversity Booth, an organization that promotes inclusivity in businesses.
The event was presented by the Venture Center in conjunction with Venture Noire and the Arkansas Small Business Technology and Development Center.