Venture Taranaki, the Regional Development Agency for Taranaki, has announced the top five finalists for the second phase of its PowerUp Ideas Competition, with one finalist up to win the grand prize of $10,000. 

“We were overwhelmed by Taranaki’s response when we first put out the call for submissions of enterprising ideas. All the video-pitches we received were of very high calibre, with many ideas having great potential. It was very difficult to narrow down to just five,” says Venture Taranaki GM Enterprise Michelle Jordan. 

“The top five finalists are a great range of industry and application, covering Agri-tech, recycling waste product, tidal technology, a food product, and an innovative skincare,” says Justine Gilliland, Venture Taranaki Chief Executive. 

The top five finalists are: 

  • Glen Stephens, Sol + Sea – an innovative skincare range
  • Karen Danenhauer, MamaGaia – a product made from recycled products
  • Lauren Oehme and Leon Power, Nanobubble Agritech – agricultural technology
  • Remy Zynfogel, Calypso Science – technology focused on ocean tides and currents
  • Jenni Matheson, Mrinali Kumar and team, Kinda Ice Cream – plant-based food product

Four of the five finalists were part of the first phase of the PowerUp ideas competition, an eight-workshop series that helped 50 participants build their business plans and learn about starting and growing an enterprise. 

“To anyone in Taranaki that is thinking about doing the Powerup programme, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. The confidence, validation and resources it has given our business is invaluable. We hope that this process will enable us to launch successfully by gaining some great insights from other likeminded people,” says Glen Stephens, Director, Sol + Sea Group. 

PowerUp Ideas Competition Finalists
Sol+Sea Director Glen Stephens.

From April until June, the top five finalists will receive tailored support to help them move forward with their idea. In conjunction with Soda Inc., Venture Taranaki’s support of the finalists includes $3,000 seed funding, one-on-one mentorship, and two months of co-working space access. 

PowerUp Ideas Competition Finalists
Karen Danenhauer, founder of MamaGaia.

“I’m over the moon to have been chosen as a finalist, and very grateful for the opportunity here in Taranaki to power up my start-up MamaGaia. Having a mentor and access to expert advice will be invaluable in growing my business, and I look forward to making new connections with other local entrepreneurs,” says top five finalist Karen Danenhauer.

“I’m feeling excited and scared at the same time. I will be going out of my comfort zone,” says Remy Zyngfogel from Calypso Science after being announced as a finalist.

PowerUp Ideas Competition Finalists
Lauren Oehme and Leon Power, Nanobubble Agritech.

“We are thrilled to be selected for the second phase of the PowerUp programme. Our mentor is so knowledgeable and perfect for Nanobubble Agritech, and we’d never have been introduced to him without the PowerUp opportunity. We are keen to use our mentor’s guidance to set ourselves up for significant growth, and accelerate the business as much as possible,” says Lauren Oehme from Nanobubble Agritech.

“Our ambition is to see Kinda Ice Cream in every supermarket across New Zealand. At this stage, the main challenges we face for getting our product into the market are commercialisation-related, branding and getting investment ready. Our hope is the programme will support us through these challenges and achieving our goals,” says Mrinali Kumar Co-Founder, Kinda Ice Cream. 

PowerUp Ideas Competition Finalists
Remy Zyngfogel, Calypso Science.

The two-month programme will culminate with a mid-year PowerUp Ideas Competition Finals Night in Taranaki, where each of the five participants will pitch to a panel of judges, with the winner taking home $10,000 to help take their idea to the next level.

“We are looking forward to seeing each of the top five progress through this programme. The work they put in will be evident come finals nights when they pitch to a live audience,” says Michelle.

“We encourage any other people within Taranaki who have a business idea, who want to develop their entrepreneurial skills, or have an early-stage start-up to engage with us. Venture Taranaki is committed to supporting entrepreneurship and enterprises in Taranaki,” adds Justine.

The PowerUp Ideas Competition is part of the wider PowerUp initiative led by Venture Taranaki, to support enterprises, ideas and individuals with their start-up and growth aspirations.

PowerUp Ideas Competition Finalists
Jenni Matheson, Milli Kumar and team, Kinda Ice Cream.


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