Portland-based Mint + Mirth walked away with the first place prize at the inaugural UberENTREPRENEURS pitchfest held earlier this week.
The event is part of ride-hailing company Uber’s program to connect drivers that are also launching their own startups with local resources. The Portland program is partnering with co-working space WeWork and the Business Outreach Program at Portland State University.
Mint + Mirth beat out four other finalists to take home the big $5,000 prize. The company is a craft cocktail caterer that specializes in weddings and other events and creates unique drinks using local spirits.
Additionally, the company will receive business training from PSU’s Business Outreach including one-on-one consulting, access to networking events and business tools and a five-week workshop series.
Mint + Mirth cofounder Jennelle Barajas said the company will use the money to purchase new bartender kits and boost its online targeted advertising. The company plans to hire five more bartenders next year and the kits will supply their tools.
The company is working two to three events a week and this year became profitable, she said. It was started with co-founder Joni Whitworth, as a way to further Barajas’ love of craft cocktails without opening a full-fledged bar.
“We knew we could do something with catering,” Barajas said. “It started with friends and family and word got out we were doing it. We couldn’t stop it from happening.”
Whitworth works on Mint + Mirth full time as does Barajas, who also works a few hours a week as an Uber driver.
Other prizes went to:
Second place:Maxwell Hunter of Treehouse Stickers, which makes custom stickers with a quick turnaround and an affordable price. The startup will receive $3,000 and can enroll in the five-week PSU Business Outreach Workshop.
Third place:Tim Oberlander and Swearball, a novelty ball that curses when it lands. The startup will receive $2,000 plus enrollment in the PSU Business Outreach Workshop.
Fourth Place: Jessica Chan of WinkPens, a refillable fountain pen that uses alternative inks such as wine or tea. The startup will receive enrollment in the PSU Business Outreach Workshop.
Fifth Place: Steve Belinsky of Sweet Oregon Rain, a kettle corn manufacturer, will also receive enrollment in the PSU Business Outreach Workshop.
All participants in the UberENTREPRENEURS program also drive for the company as they build their own businesses. The entrepreneurs are identified in the app so that riders can ask them about their startups.