A group of young entrepreneurs went swimming with sharks this week.
The Chamber of Commerce's Shark Tank event-modeled after a national TV show-took place Wednesday, May 1, in the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks.
Ten teams entered the shark tank. Ideas ranged from an indoor dog park to an app to keep women safe.
The winning idea was "Set Your Rent," created by Adam Zach and Jon Enright.
"Set Your Rent" is a new way to find a home to rent. Zach and Enright offer a service that opens up the rental market to homes for sale, too. Set Your Rent will buy a home for someone to rent. The two hope to help renters unhappy with the current market. They also want to help people looking to buy a home who may not be able to get a loan with the bank.
"You can rent any home that is listed for sale as long as the price is right," Zach said.
Zach and Enright won $750 and a free nine-month membership to the 701 Co-Working Space by Evolve Grand Forks.
The "sharks" were Matt Winjum, co-owner of Rhombus Guys; Phil Gisi, owner of Edgewood Management Group; Tommy Kneville, owner of iSight RPV; and Jenny Kuhns, owner of the Northend Dairy Queen.
Zach talked with the Herald about the competition:
Q: Can you tell me more about Set Your Rent?
A: Our end goal is e-commerce. We are trying to create a two-sided market. We want to connect people who want to rent with investors. Our official launch was in January 2019. Prior to starting Set Your Rent, we both bought properties and had roommates living with us. They call it "house hacking," where you buy a property and your roommates pay your rent or mortgage. After that we started buying just pure rental houses. Then we kind of realized that this was an opportunity for us to help other people and started using it as a lead generation tool. If you can't get financing or you don't see anything you like, let us know. Typically we don't do anything less than a 12-month lease. And we will also work with people who want to rent-to-own. If they can't qualify for a conventional bank loan, they can use us.
Q: What inspired you to enter the competition?
A: We saw the newsletter that the Chamber pushed out and the thing said "go give your one-minute pitch and get feedback." So I thought the feedback from other entrepreneurs that are further down the path would be helpful. We also thought it would be helpful to see other entrepreneurs presenting and learn from them. Some of the connections we made there were great, like people wanting to talk about the business over lunch or wanting to spread the word about our business. We also learned a lot from what others were asking about Set Your Rent. The cash prize and the coworking space were also a nice incentive to enter the competition.
Q: Can you talk about some challenges in the competition?
A: Well, Jon started off by introducing himself under the wrong name. He gave my name instead of his own. So he broke the ice with that. But also preparing for the competition and being able to think on your feet during the competition was a challenge. We didn't know what kind of questions the judges were going to ask. But I think we ended up answering the questions in a way that showed the judges that we knew what we were talking about.
Q: How will participating in the competition help you get your business off the ground?
A: Well, a place to work and being around other entrepreneurs sounds like a fantastic opportunity. Any time you're starting a business, funding is always a tough aspect. We are in the growth and acquisition stage and we are trying to use the cash prize to do some Facebook ads or Google ads, just to get the word out about our business. That's our next major task. We also plan to use some of the resources we got from the competition to help build out the website to what we actually need it to be so that it functions for the intended use.
Q: Where do you see "Set Your Rent" this time next year?
A: If we could have maybe five employees a year from now, that would be ambitious, but it would be fun. I'd also like to see us move into the five largest North Dakota cities.