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Entrepreneur wins bizMix top prize for memorial stone startup

September 25, 2018

A young entrepreneur who turns cremated remains into a memorial stone won the top prize in the 2018 Santa Fe bizMIX competition.

Justin Crowe took home $5,000 after four months of perfecting his pitch to investors through bizMIX.

All 15 startups that started the competition in May finished the course. Eight startup founders received a share of $20,000; the other seven took home Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce memberships, consultations and other in-kind services. BizMIX, a business incubator, handed out the awards Thursday at Optunia Cafe on Shoofly Street.

In a twist, Crowe during the process found a business partner and CEO in Kimberly Corbitt, a successful entrepreneur who worked with Crowe first as a bizMIX mentor.

“I reached out to her to be a judge and she said, ‘I can’t judge, I’ve joined one of the companies,’ ” said bizMIX co-founder Kate Noble.

Corbitt, who started Santa Lucia LLC, a service provider for developmentally disabled clients, and Xpress, a platform for physicians to interact with drug companies, said she made a significant investment in the technology Crowe has developed that he calls Purified Remains.

“We work together brilliantly,” Corbitt said Thursday. “We disagree and we enjoy disagreeing, and we come to a much better solution and we have a lot of fun; we’re super productive together. It’s great.”

Crowe and Corbitt expect to be working with their first retail client next month, Crowe said. The company turns cremated remains into a solid, stone-like material.

“The next step is getting into our next retailer, which will hopefully be mid-October,” he said. Five crematoriums outside New Mexico are interested, he and Corbitt said.

The next highest cash winner, Angel Irlanda, created a prototype teardrop-style camper partially made of chicken feathers. He won $4,500 and a six-month MAKE Santa Fe membership worth another $4,890.

Earth Traveler trailers started with a family outing, Irlanda said. He took his wife and two children camping, but strong winds collapsed their tent. “Never again,” he said his wife, Lauda Esteves, told him, unless he buys a camper.

Unfortunately, Irlanda drives a Fiat, too small to tow a conventional camper trailer. The Earth Traveler, built of resin-reinforced crushed feathers over a carbon-fiber frame, weighs about 300 pounds, he said. It’s a good fit for smaller cars and electric cars.

“Feathers — I knew for a long time it was possible,” Irlanda said.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is analyzing the strength of his feather material, he said. Poultry producers provide the sterilized feathers and pay him to take them away.

The prizes were determined by a panel that included a representative from bizMIX, Thornburg Investment, Public Service Company of New Mexico, journalist Julia Goldberg and a past bizMIX award winner.

The other winners are:

Mable’s Table, $3,000: Co-founders Holly Tunkel and Diane Hanson created a “small-batch, made-in-New-Mexico table linens business.”

Bau Wau Haus, $3,000 and in-kind prizes worth $2,400: Luca Marino-Baker shifted his business plan from making customized doghouses to locally made pet doors.

Hopper + Son, $2,500 and in-kind prizes worth $3,075: Founder Roxanne Hopper started a pop-up flower shop and subscription flower service.

Smiles for Miles, prizes and services worth $4,760: Cheryl Kennedy founded a nonprofit studio and gallery where disabled young adults may focus their talents and develop marketable arts.

StandFit, prizes worth $2,175: Founder Russell Moore created a patented standing-assistance device for use at home or the workplace.

Nomada Goods, prizes worth $2,425: Miguel Villalpando founded an import/export business that focuses on small farmers, artisans and producers on a global scale.

Garden Lore Designs, prizes worth $625: Founder Lauren Ayer creates quilt patterns inspired by nature.

UNUM Magazine, prizes worth $3,000: Tricia English created a publication to highlight achievements by women of diverse backgrounds.

La Villa Real Brewing Cooperative, prizes worth $1,425: Mateo Miller and Zion Miller founded a member-owned brewery.

Adventures for the Community-minded Ecotourist, $575 worth of prizes: Founded by Tamara Prochorchik, ACME aims to become a tour company focused on life in and around Santa Fe.

Legendary Elegance, prizes worth $4,750: Founded by Dominique Garcia to sell handmade skin-care products.

Fungus AmongUs, prizes worth $2,250: Founders Matthew Moya, Justin Armijo and Craig Moya grow mushrooms locally using sustainable practices.

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