Purdue University Northwest Hosts The PNW Big Sell Competition, Announces Winners

May 6, 2021

The Purdue University Northwest College of Business and the College of Technology successfully held the final pitches in The PNW Big Sell competition live on May 1, where the top three winners were announced.

Rockland Page, owner of Merrillville-based RockaBlock, was awarded first place and $10,000 for his Freedom Fighters t-shirt design which brings together fashion, history and technology. Rockland is a visual storyteller with 17 years of graphic design skills and has worked for both Jet magazine and Chicago Tribune but “they were very lacking in”. So out of a desire for more than what he already had, he came up with the idea for RockaBlock in 2017 in the basement of his home.

Second place went to Emily Edwards of Schererville, founder of Emily’s Foods, who was awarded $5,000 for her plant-based Paradise snack packs. Emily has over 30 years of CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) experience. Paradise comes in two types of snack packs and 8 oz jars. The snack pack can be paired with grain-free pretzels and there are 4 different flavors.

Third place went to Jay Weinberg who was awarded $2,500 for his business Artunity which offers the public the opportunity to donate to an artist for a chance to win an original artwork.

“This type of event is important,” said Mont Handley, entrepreneur in residence and associate director of the PNW Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center (CMEC). “It provides recognition to those who are gaining traction with their startups, motivation to those who are interested in entrepreneurship and serves to promote an emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northwest Indiana.”

This year’s event, under the direction of Handley and Alexandra Moran, clinical instructor of entrepreneurship at PNW, was streamed live from WJOB housed inside PNW’s CMEC building in Hammond. The 12 finalists delivered a six-minute pitch to a three-member panel of judges made up of local entrepreneurs, David Olivencia, Kristin Burton and Kelli Jones.

In addition to the three winners, a Fan Favorite Award was handed out to Merrillville resident, Michelle Pearson, chief executive officer at MPB Essential Technology, Inc., who was able to generate the most audience praise for her pitch.

“Our hope is that these entrepreneurs continue to move forward, keep going, and keep pressing on with their innovations,” said Moran. “We’re trying to create a community ecosystem of entrepreneurs and this is just one piece of it.”

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

Emily Edwards is pictured.

Emily Edwards of Emily’s Foods gives the judges her final pitch during The PNW Big Sell competition on May 1.

Jay Weinberg is pictured.

Artunity’s Jay Weinberg pitches the judges during The PNW Big Sell competition on May 1.