Chock-solid business wins Innovate Whanganui 2022

Four teams took to the stage at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre to pitch their business ideas to a room full of the Whanganui business community, friends and family, as well as three local judges.

Abbi and Rodney Calman and their Safe Chock product took home the top prize of $5,000 cash on the night. “Safe Chock”, a working title for their product, is a mobile wheel chock that makes it quick and easy to put a wheel chock under a large vehicle. Instead of crouching down under the vehicle to chock the wheels, you simply wheel Safe Chock into place, avoiding unnecessary bending or lifting.

What’s more, Safe Chock secures both sides of the tyre, meeting workplace safety recommendations that other single-tyre chocks do not.

“A big thank you to the team we had, our mentors, Whanganui & Partners, and The Factory,” Rodney Calman said. “The introduction to the mentors and the knowledge that’s in Whanganui that I didn’t know existed was so valuable.”

“All the finalists have such different ideas, it must have been hard for the judges to judge things that are so completely different,” Abbi Calman said.

Hannah Middleton, Chief Executive at Whanganui & Partners was encouraged by the calibre of the finalists.

“We were so proud of the contestants and their performance on finals night. They have all embraced the Innovate experience and their impressive pitches reflected the high stakes at hand,” Middleton said.

“It was also amazing to see five finalists from Innovate Whanganui 2021 back to support this year’s event and, in particular, to watch Ben Blain’s presentation on his WellStream app. Ben has made incredible progress and is a testament to the value of Innovate to our local entrepreneurs and the importance of being brave and ambitious on your business journey.”

In true Innovate spirit, the decision to offer a second place was unexpected but exciting. Doing the unexpected complements the unique nature of Innovate. This competition has set rules and guidelines, but with the understanding innovation is about pushing boundaries and doing what might be considered impossible.

This year, a second place prize of $2,000 cash was awarded to Julia Lee Hansen with her Pet Memorials business idea. The judges saw the potential for Hansen’s business to go global, given the emotional connection many pet owners have with their animals.

As well as the first and second prizes, each of the four finalists receives a Whanganui & Partners Business Boost award consisting of $2,500 cash and $1,250 in mentoring support.

Nick Gain, Chief Executive of The Factory was impressed by the progress made by the finalists during the programme.

“It’s very humbling to watch people grow through a programme,” Gain said. “Innovate aims to encourage founders to focus on the problem, then validate a market and create a proposition. It’s challenging but the proven model pays off.”

Reaffirming this, Abbi Calman said, “We thought we knew who our customer was but going through the programme we truly figured out who they were. Also, we revisited the problem we thought we were solving as it was actually a secondary problem. Innovate opened our eyes up to more intricacies and to home in on the product we had and how it can work.”

The judges this year were; Seletar Taputoro who is one of the founders of the Whanganui Pakihi Māori Summit and Whanganui Pakihi Group and has worked and volunteered in a number of roles within the Whanganui community, Rodd Eddy – Chief Executive of the Backhouse, and Britta Fromow – a consultant with James & Wells IP who has been involved with Innovate for more than eight years.

Winners Abbi and Rodney had some advice for others who may have a business idea they’re looking to take to the next level, “Everybody is there to help you. You think the judges are judging you but they’re not, they’re there to help you and everybody here wants Whanganui to thrive and do well.”

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