Purdue Northwest announces winners of the PNW Big Sell

May 16, 2022

Purdue University Northwest’s (PNW) College of Business and College of Technology hosted 12 finalists on April 30 during the 11th annual PNW Big Sell pitch competition, sponsored by the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), where the top three winners were announced.

Richard Christakes was awarded first place and $10,000 for his business, Ship My Plants, which matches plant enthusiasts with the closest possible sellers based on geolocation. The business model is intended to minimize stress on plants, save shipping time and costs and reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, for over 5 decades and two generations, the founder of Ship My Plants has belonged to the garden center industry – from plant production to brick and mortar retail and most recently, the online selling experience.

Pair Drew Jarvis and Cindy Belardo took home second place and $3,000 for their product, Sunny Cup, a reusable feminine hygiene product that is lower in cost, better for the environment and free from harmful chemicals and dyes, when compared to similar feminine hygiene products on the market.

Dan Durochik received third place and $1,000 for Alert Lift, an automatic garage door opener with an integrated carbon monoxide detector. The device would detect high levels of carbon monoxide and trigger a garage to open and ventilate. Durochik is a 1986 PNW alumnus who earned a bachelor’s degree in Managerial Studies.

“Year after year the PNW Big Sell showcases the innovation and entrepreneurship in Northwest Indiana,” said Kristin Burton, assistant professor of Entrepreneurship. “Each year I am excited to see what business ideas and concepts will be presented.  We are so grateful to NIPSCO for sponsoring this event and their commitment to helping small businesses.  I encourage all aspiring entrepreneurs to consider presenting their business ideas at the PNW Big Sell next year.”

Burton and Mont Handley, Entrepreneur in Residence and associate director of the Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center (CMEC), jointly directed the event, which was streamed live on WJOB and JEDtv in PNW’s CMEC building in Hammond.

The 12 finalists delivered six-minute pitches to a three-member panel of judges. The panel included Rockland Page, Emily Edwards, and Scott Massey, all entrepreneurs who won awards in past PNW Big Sell competitions. Page was the 2021 first-place winner for a t-shirt design by his business, Rockablock, LLC. Edwards was the 2021 second-place winner for her Paradise, Inc. plant-based sweet indulgent spreads and snacks. Massey was the 2018 first-place winner for his agricultural-technology company, Heliponix, LLC.

The PNW Big Sell final pitch competition can be viewed on-demand at jedtv.com.