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The Big Gig makes changes heading into third year

Local entrepreneurial development partnership, Big Gig, is adding an educational element to its third annual Networking and Pitch-Off Event to benefit aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs.

The event, which for the past two years has consisted of contestants pitching ideas to a panel of judges, will now include presentations by experienced entrepreneurs. The guest speakers — which Big Gig refers to as “Keynote Pitchers” or “Big Rigs” — will demonstrate successful pitches.

“In the spirit of continuing our coaching of young entrepreneurs who want to move to the next level, we thought this would be a good way to keep the event fresh,” Evan Richert, Big Gig Steering Committee member, said.

This year’s Keynote Pitcher is Orono resident Dr. Todd O’Brien. O’Brien has licensed six patented surgical products and will explain how he successfully developed his pitch.

Big Gig is also giving contestants the opportunity to practice their pitches one week before the event. The panel will give participants feedback to improve before the event.

According to Richert, most of the pitchers from past years are still in business. However, he does not take credit for their successes.

“It’s not because of us, but we are one piece of the foundation that will hopefully help these businesses succeed,” he said.

Previous contestants have pitched a variety of ideas from ice cream produced exclusively of products from local farms to cupcake toppers created by 3-D printers.

Big Gig’s sponsors, which include local companies such as Eaton Peabody, Blackstone Accelerates Growth and Orono Economic Development Corporation (OEDC), provide legal, financial and mentorship services to support hopeful entrepreneurs and help fund the Pitch-Off event. Representatives from each sponsor have served as panel judges and guest speakers in previous years.

“We couldn’t do it without their support,” Richert said, adding that the University Credit Union provides the competition’s prize money, as well as a venue for the event.

Richert urges hopeful entrepreneurs to apply to become part of the Pitch-Off, even if they ultimately decide not to pitch.

“We can still connect them with people who can be helpful to them,”Richert said. “I think that’s really the important message. If you’ve got a business idea in the early stages and want some experience pitching, or want to make the right connections, you get coaching right out of the gate.”

Anyone with an interest in entrepreneurship or innovation is invited to observe and network with successful professionals.

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