Finalists Selected for Business Pitch Challenge on March 23

Feb. 13, 2023 — A selection committee has reviewed eight business start-up applications for the 2023 Mandan Business Pitch Challenge. The four finalists are:

  • Big Stick Cigars by Josette Dupree — a vintage tobacconist’s shop;
  • Inside Park by Brittany Kennedy – an indoor park geared towards young children;
  • Just You Studios by Katie Bowers – a home office and entrepreneurial community; and
  • Send-It! 24/7 Cornhole by Jed Geer, Brad Anderson and Brandon Koch — a recreational venue.

Finalists will pitch their business proposals to judges March 23 at the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, 3201 Nygren Dr NW. Doors open at 5 p.m. with contestant presentations beginning at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees will have the opportunity to vote for a people’s choice award recipient. For planning purposes, registration is requested by March 17 at or by calling 701-667-3478.

Other entrants were Alpha-Lit Bismarck, Freezy Does It, Tasty J’s, and Vermin Armor.

Selection committee members were:

  • Ashley Hruby, Lewis and Clark Development Group;
  • Rob Knoll, Economic Opportunity and Prosperity Committee and Bennigan’s Mandan;
  • Jonathan Leonard, Mandan Growth Fund and First International Bank & Trust;
  • Brian Ritter, Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC; and
  • Lynnell Rude Ussatis, Haga Kommer.

The selection panel evaluated contestant applications and executive summaries of business plans for content including thoroughness of information, research and analysis; innovativeness in terms of how their product or service is creative or different than others on the market or in the community; target customer identification; market fit; public benefits to Mandan; scalability; strength of leadership team; use of prizes; and feasibility. A new set of judges in the live round will score these factors plus pitch delivery, responses to questions, and whether the proposal is bankable or investable.

All finalists will receive coaching through the North Dakota Small Business Development Centers (NDSBDC) plus a cash prize. The challenge winner will be awarded $750 cash, the chance to be eligible for up to a $10,000 forgivable loan from the Mandan Growth Fund, plus a host of other products and services to aid in ramping up a business. For a full list of awards and donors, visit

The Mandan Tomorrow - Economic Opportunity and Prosperity Committee is hosting the competition with assistance from the Mandan Business Development Department, Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC and NDSBDC.

The Mandan “Business Pitch Challenge” is part of a 2023 business education series sponsored by Bank of North Dakota, BNC National Bank, Bravera Bank, Capital Credit Union, Cornerstone Bank, CRA Group, Dakota Business Lending, Dakota Community Bank and Trust, Daniel Companies, First Community Credit Union, First International Bank and Trust, First Western Bank and Trust, Gate City Bank, Goodhart and Associates, Haga Kommer CPAs, Knutson Companies, Lewis and Clark Development Group, Railway Credit Union, Rise Property Brokers, Security First Bank, and Starion Bank.