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Social Shopping App SellSwipe Takes Top Prize at BREW Pitch Night

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Hyperlocal social shopping app SellSwipe took the $50,000 top prize at the Baton Rouge Pitch Night event to close out Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week and end a year of pitch events featuring entrepreneurs from across the Capital region.

The SellSwipe mobile app lets consumers find items for sale from people and businesses in their community, and also post their own items for sale. Users can follow the purchases of friends and family and get recommendations on businesses and deals.

SellSwipe was one of three finalists in the competition, which was held at The Manship Theatre in downtown Baton Rouge and sponsored by the Louisiana Technology Park and Innovation Catalyst. The other finalists were The Healing Sole, a sandal used to help treat plantar fasciitis and foot pain, and Aqua Pak, which aims to offer eco-friendly packaging for water that reduces plastic use and greenhouse emissions.

SellSwipe founder David Facey described his product as a social network that creates a marketplace based on product discovery, influencer marketing and recommendations. Users can find nearby businesses to see what items they have for sale and discover any deals they may offer. They can save products to review later, message the business with questions or recommend products to friends.

Facey said the platform combines the convenience of online shopping, the peace of mind of in-store shopping and the connectivity of social media for a unique experience.

For businesses, the platform offers product insights and analytics for retailers to leverage. Facey said that data can help small businesses identify trends and consumer demand based on geography — an ability previously only available to large retailers.

“All of these features help level the playing field for 3 million small retailers across the country,” he said. “SellSwipe helps drive quick traffic into these businesses so they can create meaningful relationships with customers and turn their biggest supporters into their biggest advocates.”

The app is in the final stages of development and has 400 businesses pre-registered. Those businesses are testing the app and will have items ready for purchase once the platform is released to the public through a targeted rollout in Baton Rouge.

Also pitching at the event was The Healing Sole, a plantar fasciitis footwear device that uses technology to incorporate a variety of treatment methods into a single structure. Founded by Baton Rouge orthopedic surgeon Dr. Meredith Warner, The Healing Sole is a patented sandal that incorporates six key features into its design to support the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Warner said most other heel-pain devices on the market focus on arch support only.

Warner said the severe foot pain affects 1 in 10 people in the United States and can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to treat. The Healing Sole footwear, by comparison, retails at $99. Warner said an initial clinical study found the product to be 80 to 85 percent effective in relieving pain.

The product is already on the market and the company predicts 30 percent annual growth over the next several years. It is looking for angel investors to fund a marketing expansion as well as the addition of new color options for the sandal and eventually a closed-toe shoe.

“We have a unique device that actually works very well,” Warner said. “It’s all awareness.”

The third pitcher, Aqua Pak, plans to build a plant near the Baton Rouge airport to package water in sustainable and recyclable cartons. They would be sold to companies and government organizations looking to provide water in more eco-friendly containers.

Aqua Pak Sales and Marketing Director Carl Herrick said Americans are drinking more bottled water than ever before, throwing away some 40 billion disposable water bottles annually. “They’re filling up our landfills, they’re leaching into the groundwater, they’re getting into the fields, the bayous, the oceans,” he said. “That’s a problem. We’ve got to do something about that.”

Aqua Pak hopes to tap into the growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly water bottles by packing water cartons manufactured by international company Tetra Pak.

Most companies use the plant-based Tetra Pak packages, which are 100 percent recyclable and 90 percent renewable, for food products such as soup. But Aqua Pak plans to lease equipment from Tetra Pak and exclusively bottle water in the eco-friendly packaging, which will be targeted at the central Gulf Coast region.

Herrick said stadiums, hotels, universities and national parks are all interested in providing water packaging options that are more sustainable than plastic bottles. The sustainable cartons could be customized with the names and logos of individual companies.

After the three presentations and question-and-answer sessions, the panel of judges deliberated privately and selected a winner. Judges for the event were Innovation Catalyst CEO Louis Freeman Jr., Veneeth Iyengar with Sage Growth Partners, and Addison Killebrew, co-founder of food-delivery app Waitr.

Aside from competing for the prize money, pitchers at the event were able to get feedback from audience members, as well as coaching from prominent business consultants and successful entrepreneurs. They also had the opportunity to develop connections to non-funding resources, such as professional services donors and providers.

Stephen Loy