Fred Axton’s idea for easier showering won the kickoff event Wednesday night for the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge.
The new contest, which offers $5,000 worth of prizes to the person with the best startup business plan, began with a regional event in Modesto. Others are planned for Oakdale, Turlock and Patterson before the Dec. 10 finals in Modesto.
Axton impressed judges and audience voters with a sliding door that can be installed in the tub wall of a shower-tub combination, helpful to people with limited mobility. “You’re going to make it so it’s just easy for them to take a shower,” he said of the device. He expects it would sell for about $500.
Wednesday’s round started with two-minute pitches by the seven entrants. The top three went on to 10-minute Q&A sessions.
Corine Boulton placed second to Axton with her enchilada sauce. Dale Boucher was third with a “collapsible sleep comfort tent.”
The Stanislaus Business Alliance is putting on the contest, co-sponsored by Wells Fargo, The Modesto Bee and the Stanislaus/Merced Angels investment group. It is open to county residents and people who own businesses or attend college here.
The winner will get $2,500 in cash and an equal amount in professional services. He or she will be entered next year in the sixth annual San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge, a Stockton-based competition that covers eight counties and has a bigger prize.
The judging panel for Wednesday’s event was Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh; David White, chief executive officer at the Alliance; and Modesto engineer John Paoluccio Jr., who won the Stockton event in 2012 with an odor controller for sewer manholes. Stanislaus County, in fact, has had four of the five winners in that contest.
White was pleased with the first night of the contest. “The whole idea is to help entrepreneurs get into a routine of how to pitch their company and do it in a concise way.”