The Que

The Que was named the crowd favorite of the first-ever Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition held Sept. 5 at the Appalachian Center for the Arts in conjunction with the 2019 SOAR Summit. Shown are John Nickell, Jacob Ballard, George Merhoff, and SOAR Director of Business and Innovation Ryan Jones.

Tree of the Field, a Berea-based company, brought home the top prize at the first-ever Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition on Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Appalachian Center for the Arts.

The event, held in conjunction with the 2019 SOAR Summit, was presented by Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), USDA Rural Development, and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation Office and sponsored by Peoples Bank, Invest 606, and Toyota Tsusho.

The Que, a unique streaming service intended for groups and communities, won the Crowd Favorite Award and received $500.

Tree of the Field produces environmentally friendly products including the RediFlame Skeeterlog, a 100% natural insect repellent. The equivalent of liquid insecticide, the product is made with eight natural oils and is sold as part of a Chiminea kit.

“Hope is the certainty that something makes sense. We have always been certain that owning and manufacturing the Skeeterlog in eastern Kentucky makes sense,” said Robin Richmond Mason, owner of Tree of the Field. “We are creating jobs and a highly effective, all-natural mosquito repellent. Winning the pitch affirms that others are beginning to catch a glimpse of what the production of environmentally sustainable products that meet real human needs can mean for our region.”

Mason brought home a $5,000 top prize and plans to use the funding for new packaging for her products which will include the company’s motto: “We have deep roots and high standards.”

A-1 Implements was the second-place winner of $2,500. This company has created the Hemp Hawk to help alleviate and control weeds in hemp fields. The device increases farm efficiency and enhances crop vitality by completely cultivating, weeding, and hilling functions in one pass.

Friends Drift Inn and Slope Masters tied for the third-place prize, receiving $500 each.

Friends Drift Inn, based in Pike County, is a farm and kitchen with a mission of “growing a good life in Appalachia.” Slope Masters, based in Floyd County, specializes in electrical services, welding, and fabrication. Their Slope Master Spider has captured the attention of municipalities and large landowners for its unique approach to slope mowing.

“We couldn’t do this without our partners and our sponsors,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “Every single small business and idea on this stage are winners. They are taking risks and not only creating their future but blazing a trail for others to do so throughout Appalachia Kentucky.”

Ryan Jones, director of business and innovation at SOAR, said the work of business and innovation champions throughout the region is fostering a culture where ideas are shared and begin to take shape.

“It’s rewarding to see how far we have come, but it is exciting to know that this work will continue and culminate at events such as this,” he said.

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