Info-sharing idea wins local contest

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A locally based business that will allow people to share contact information with others at the same event using a subscription-based text messaging service won the inaugural Made in FredVA competition Wednesday night.

Muster Me, a business idea that Libby O’Malley presented Wednesday, took home the $10,000 grand prize at the contest, which was patterned after ABC’s popular “Shark Tank” television show.

Muster Me aims to improve the way people share contact information at conferences, weddings and other events. Often, as O’Malley said Wednesday to a roomful of people at Dodd Auditorium on the University of Mary Washington’s campus, attendees write down their name, email address and other contact information on a sheet of paper that then has to be manually typed and shared.

“It’s not very efficient, and we think there’s a better way,” O’Malley told the audience and five judges Wednesday.

O’Malley said the Muster Me team participated in the Fredericksburg area’s first Startup Weekend event earlier this year at Germanna Community College and was left wishing that it had access to everyone’s contact info who was there.

Muster Me would help solve that problem, she said.

Event organizers could pay to subscribe to Muster Me’s services. Muster Me would give that person a cellphone number that could be shared at the event. When people arrive at the event they could text their contact information to the cellphone number, and after the event an email would go out to everyone with the full contact list.

The $10,000 will reimburse Muster Me for expenses associated with starting the business, such as attorney fees and other costs.

Adrian Silversmith, who wants to start a local market and eatery focused on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches called Sprelly, won the people’s choice award at Wednesday’s event. That is a $250 award that was based on an audience vote.

The judges at the Made in FredVA event were Matt Armstrong of Deedod Inc., John Fick III of J.F. Fick Inc., Jeff Morin of ForAny thing.com, Rebecca Rubin of Marstel–Day LLC and Doug Stewart of Cary Street Partners. Each of the six finalists had five minutes to pitch his or her idea, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges.

The other four finalists were:

Mary Lou Cramer, Buy Local Hands. Company would help schools with fundraising by offering high-quality products made by local artisans, artists, farmers and more.

Andy Leonard, Campus IDeas. Company would increase the functionality of student ID cards by putting them on smartphones, and then sell advertising to local businesses.

Jim Haney, Fredericksburg Botanical Gardens. Company would create a 100-acre botanical garden at Celebrate Virginia South in Fredericksburg patterned after the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Shawn Phillips, Spencer Devon Brewing. Company would open a microbrewery and restaurant in downtown Fredericksburg offering craft beers and entrées made with local ingredients.

The Next Generation of Business Leaders, an affiliate of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, organized the Made in FredVA event. The money for the event and prizes came from Atlantic Builders, Next Gen and the economic development authorities in Stafford, Spotsy, and the city.

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