Springfield Hustles finalists vie for shot at $80,000 in cash and business support prizes

The second annual Springfield Hustles competition is well underway, and this year’s five finalists are busy working on their final pitch presentations in hopes of winning the $80,000 prize package.

Springfield Hustles is based on the television show “Shark Tank,” and was designed to connect entrepreneurs with the advice and local connections to help their ideas succeed.

The finalists will present their final pitches in one week at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, live on stage at Medway Church, 2550 S. Dayton-Lakeview Road, New Carlisle. Because of COVID-19, this year’s in-person event will have limited attendance, but it will also be streamed live on the Springfield Hustles Facebook page.

The winner’s complete prize package includes:

Let’s meet this year’s group of finalists and check out the businesses they’re hoping to bring to and grow in Springfield.

Brian True – Table Talks

Table Talks would be a new business aimed at bringing people in Springfield together. Table Talks concept is a board game café where for a small price, customers could access a library of more than 100 board games for a whole day. Games would include classics and some of the most popular new games.

“It’s no secret that Springfield needs more entertainment options,” says business creator Brian True. Though some locations, such as the ice rink and Mother Stewart’s Brewing Company, have been a great start, True says he’d like to bring another kind of entertainment option that doesn’t currently exist.

“We can all remember a time where we gathered around a table, playing board games with friends and family, chatting it up and engaging in a depth of conversation that many of us haven’t had in years,” he says. “At Table Talks, we can experience that again. We can come in, put down the phones, bust out a board game, and have a seat at the table to really engage in and deepen those friendships and other relationships we have.”

True says he’s hopeful to eventually move past COVID-19 and hopefully open next summer, when people will be excited to get out of their houses and enjoy time together.

“We want to be the premier entertainment option for all of Springfield, which means we will stay up on the latest trends in board games to ensure that our patrons and fellow Springfield citizens are intrigued by and happy with the selection of games we have to offer – regardless of how many times they’ve been in the store,” he says.

Winning Springfield Hustles, True says, would give him the funding and momentum he needs to get Table Talks off the ground and make it a reality.

Rebekah Hart and Audrey Vanzant – Floral by Flourish

Flourish launched in October 2019, and it’s owners Rebekah Hart and Audrey Vanzant are Springfield Hustle hopefuls because they’d like to take the business to the next level.

“Flourish values community over everything and supports small business always, so when we attended Springfield Hustles last year to cheer on fellow business owners, we realized that we could work hard to be there in the future,” Hart says. “Springfield Hustles would change everything for Flourish.”

Flourish is a sustainable local florist to bring the community both art and entertainment – and smiles, says Hart.

“We are an all-inclusive floral services business that offers retail, entertainment services, and philanthropy work through monthly donations,” she says. “We are sustainable in our design approach, using local flower farmers, reducing waste, and upcycling products.

“All of our floral art pieces are one of a kind and crafted with seasonal local blooms.”

Flourish also offers workshops, sets up installations, and hopes to offer a flower subscription service starting in the spring.

Most recently, Flourish launched the Oxygen Bar – a plant shop located in COhatch. Other future hopes include booking more weddings and corporate events, and Hart says they are hopeful this competition will be the vehicle to help them bring more attention to their farm-to-table flowers.

Craig Williams and Earl Taylor – Main Squeeze Juice Bar

The Main Squeeze Juice Bar is an existing Springfield business hoping to win Springfield Hustles to help with growth.

Owners Craig Williams and Earl Taylor launched the mobile juice bar that sells all-natural fruit and vegetable juices. It stands out as the only mobile juice bar in Springfield and Clark County and because the juices have no additives.

“The goal for our business is to build a healthy footprint on the Southside of Springfield, where the healthy options are bleak,” Williams says. “From there, we plan to travel to festivals, 5K and marathon runs, and gym and fitness centers.”

As a finalist, Williams is hopeful to pull off a win.

“Winning would help us tremendously,” he says. “The funds would go toward helping us obtain a truck or van that would put our business a year ahead of schedule.”

Gabi Odebode – Afromeals

Afromeals is a new business Chef Gabi Odebode hopes to grow in Springfield. The concept is to provide an African and Caribbean food experience through cooking classes, products, and an African/Caribbean restaurant.

“This business is unique to Springfield in that we bring some culture and amazing cuisines and services to Springfield,” Odebode says. “What sets us apart is that there is nothing similar to what we want to do in Springfield.”

Odebode’s goal is to establish a location where she can offer not only a dine-in restaurant, but also include classes and get her products into more local stores.

“One reason I decided to approach Springfield Hustles is that I know that Springfield is working hard to build the community, and I would love to be a part of it,” she says. “I believe that my business would add to the community … I believe that in a few years the community in Springfield will soar and will be noticed for all the great things springing up, and I am excited to be one of those individuals who could help to move Springfield to that place.”

Odebede says winning would help remove some of the stresses of starting up a new business and would help “drive our business into full gear.”

Stone Nickerson – Everyday Angler

Stone Nickerson has plans to make a brick and mortar footprint in Springfield for the business he’s planning – Everyday Angler.

“It’s a community-based store that’s focused in the outdoor recreation market, specifically fishing,” Nickerson says. “Basically, it would be a retail store that offers products specialized for this area and also offers services like guiding, repairs, seminars, community gatherings, river clean up days, and more.”

The plans for Nickerson’s business are unique in that he will offer mid-to-high end gear that isn’t offered at larger chain stores. “And events – no one else in the area is currently offering that,” he says.

Nickerson has plans for an online component to compliment the Everyday Angler storefront. He says the wildlife in Clark County make it the ideal location for his shop.

“Clark County is super unique because we have the only naturally occurring trout stream in the state that flows through the county,” he says. “We have one of the best inland walleye fisheries in the state, as well, so the opportunity is very abundant here for people to fish.”

Nickerson calls Springfield Hustles “the opportunity of a lifetime,” and is determined to do his best to win.

“The $25,000 cash is a huge driving point. That would cover most of my inventory to open a space, and then the branding and website building that goes along with it would be a really huge, essential part of my business,” he says.

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.