Katie Mang had difficulty finding local mentors and getting advice to help her with her startup business, an online site that lets folks donate their talents to raise money for charities.
So Mang, 28, decided to bring a Columbus idea to Akron and start an area group to connect entrepreneurs with investors, mentors and creative types — in a relaxed setting.
“I was just really hungry for other entrepreneurs to connect with,” said Mang, who earlier this year moved back to this area after working for a nonprofit and co-founding her online venture in Washington, D.C.
On Monday, Mang’s group — SunDown RunDown/Akron — will have its inaugural free event where entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses can pitch ideas.
The gathering for small business owners as well as entrepreneurs will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Bricco restaurant at Main and Exchange Streets in downtown Akron. There will be a cash bar.
Mang’s group is an offshoot of SunDown RunDown in Columbus, which began last spring and organizes free monthly “business pitch” events at a bar near Ohio State University.
Mang went to the Columbus group’s August event and soon began working on importing the idea to Akron.
“I got some great feedback about my [online] business” in Columbus, Mang said. “I said, ‘You know, this is such an interesting group. Why don’t we start one in Akron?’?”
The Columbus pitch night “was so full of unique concepts,” she said. “I wanted to build on that experience and connect with other individuals [locally] who want a place to pitch their business with no financial commitment.”
Mang also likes the noncompetitive atmosphere — different from ABC TV’s Shark Tank show where entrepreneurs make pitches to potential investors.
Paul Proffitt, the founder of the original SunDown RunDown in Columbus, said the group is a way to “get away from the formality, to really be a laid back community type event.”
The events, he said, “are really about entrepreneurs trying to get feedback on their ideas, talking about roadblocks … They’re basically throwing out the lifeline and saying, ‘Hey, is there anyone that can help me?’?”
Proffitt, who teaches entrepreneurship at Columbus State Community College, said the Columbus gatherings draw about 35 to 60 people; each event features several people making a business pitch.
Like Mang, Proffitt has a fledgling online business called Contractor Tools Online. It offers mobile paperless contracts and other online services to contractors.
Mang’s online business is called Voolla. The name is a riff on “volunteer” and “moolah.”
The Voolla website allows people to offer their skills — from dog walking to graphic design. They are then matched with buyers, with the proceeds going to selected charities instead of the person providing the service.
A small percentage of the money paid for each service goes to Voolla to keep the operation going. The company, Mang said, is far from self-sustaining, though it has attracted a lot of interest from charities and people wanting to donate their skills.
Mang, who has an undergraduate and graduate degree from Kent State University, lives in Silver Lake with her husband, Peter, an architect.
Mang said Thursday she already has four people signed up to present business pitches. The event is open to the public. Seating at Bricco for the event is limited to about 75 people.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.