Budding entrepreneurs Gina Urlich and Andy Spear of Norish have taken out the first ever Innovate Hawke’s Bay awards with their nutritious baby food product.
They headed off other local entrepreneurs who pitched their ideas to three judges and 75 guests at ToiToi: Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre, winning $5000 plus entry into The Factory’s accelerator programme run out of Havelock North.
The event attracted just under 50 entries, 20 of which moved through to the semi-finals where they pitched to 25 Innovate Hawke’s Bay mentors. Seven finalists were then selected and put through a structured programme over two months, culminating in the final pitch night.
Gina Andy pithed Norish, where nourishing meets moreish. Norish carefully selects the best of what Mother Nature has to offer and combines it with an innovative technology to create a shelf-stable nutrient-rich baby food product line.
“Just being a finalist was a really big winning moment for us,” says Gina. “And receiving the title of Innovate Hawke’s Bay winner for 2021 was incredibly humbling. That external validation for our idea means so much.”
Both on a separate yet similar journey, they connected via Instagram and quickly realised the power of collaboration. Working together, they came up with a solution to fill a hole in the baby food market where they recognised there was a real lack of nutritious commercial baby food.
Going through the Innovate process opened up their networking opportunities. “It broadened and strengthened our vision and business plan,” continues Andy. “Our business plan became better every time we spoke to a mentor.”
CE of The Factory, Dave Craig says of the event, “it was extra special to be able to run a live event. We’re stoked that Hawke’s Bay has welcomed The Factory into the region and our intention is that this is the first of many years to come.”
Now in its tenth year, Innovate’s proven playbook is a staple in the Manawatū business scene. Bringing it to the Hawke’s Bay was made possible thanks to Luke Irving from Fingermark in Havelock North.
“The support from the business community and the way in which they have embraced the event, along with the calibre and breadth of entries, has created a really strong platform to build on,” explains Luke. “The aim is to have Innovate Hawke’s Bay become a staple on the region’s event calendar.”
Gina and Andy have advice for budding entrepreneurs. “There is opportunity everywhere and if you feel you’ve got an idea, I know it’s really cliché, but you just have to really put everything out there and have a crack,” encourages Andy.
Innovate Hawke’s Bay is run through The Factory by Havelock North local, Hal Josephson. Hal’s experience in the start-up and angel investing landscape is immense.
The judges for Innovate Hawke’s Bay 2021 were Annabel Toogood, Executive Director at Skyline Healthcare Group; Jason Wilton, CEO at Resero; and Susan White, Global Marketing Manager at FPG. The Master of Ceremonies on the night was David “Toddy” Todd.
Innovate Hawke’s Bay is sponsored by Rockit, Fingermark, Metalform, Furnware, Ask Your Team, Re-Leased, Innove Design, People & People, Baker Tilly Staples Rodway