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UNLV grad’s digital ad pitch seals Henderson Start Tank victory

Las Vegas 30-year-old Ryan Miyaki won Henderson’s Start Tank entrepreneurship competition for his business selling digital advertisements to display on the windows of ride-hailing vehicles.

After finding out he won the competition, Miyaki — who runs Rush Hour Media out of his home — told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “I’m still taking it in.”

The city’s third annual competition wrapped up Aug. 22 with five finalists each giving a five-minute business pitch during the Henderson Chamber of Commerce’s Connect Expo at the M Resort. More than 50 people watched the finalists present to a panel of judges.

Miyaki, a UNLV graduate, told the Review-Journal he was nervous, “but when you get in, it kind of energizes you a little.”

Henderson and several other groups — including Flagstaff, Arizona-based nonprofit Moonshot at the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology — organized the competition.

The concept is based on the ABC television show “Shark Tank,” on which business owners pitch their product or service to self-made entrepreneurs in hopes of securing an investment.

Forty-five people submitted an application for Henderson’s competition, which wasn’t limited to city residents. Of those, 23 semifinalists were invited to participate in a workshop Aug. 17 at the College of Southern Nevada, and five finalists were selected. Every finalist received a cash prize, with the first-place winner taking home $2,500.

Miyaki said he has been an entrepreneur since he was 18. When he was 16, he worked for two days at McDonald’s, but working for a company wasn’t for him. He didn’t even go back to get his paycheck.

About six years ago, Miyaki nearly died in a car crash. The experience, he said, led him to reevaluate his life and go after his pursuits with no regrets.

His business will have advertisements tailored to ride-hailing vehicles’ locations. The company will provide equipment at no cost to participating drivers, who will get a share of the advertising revenue.

Advertisements are set to launch in September in Las Vegas with 100 drivers, Miyaki told the audience during his pitch. He also plans to launch in December in Los Angeles, March in New York and May in Orlando, Florida.

One of the other Start Tank finalists, UNLV student Krystal Middleton, talked with attendees after the competition. She took third place for her business, Hockey Leggings.

“It was nervewracking,” she told the Review-Journal about pitching her business. “It’s something I’ve never done before.”

Middleton said the experience is allowing her to make connections and get her name out there.

After finalists presented and while judges were deliberating, Kiersten Hathcock, entrepreneur in residence at Moonshot at NACET, talked about her experience as a season two “Shark Tank” participant. She also mentored Henderson competition semifinalists during the Aug. 17 workshop.

She launched her company, Mod Mom Furniture, in 2006.

“I survived the ‘Shark Tank,’ which is a really big deal because I was terrified,” she told the audience. The episode aired in 2011.

Here’s a look at the Henderson competition finalists:

Second place: Kenneth Johnson — Vegas the Network, a digital network of original Las Vegas-centric programming

Johnson told the audience Vegas the Network is a “startup linear video network” that’s ready to launch. He said he wants the network to be distributed to every television system, including via cable, satellite and streaming video.

Content will go beyond the Strip and include areas surrounding Las Vegas , such as Mesquite and Death Valley.

A judge asked Johnson if he has enough content for a 24-hour broadcast. The solution, Johnson said, is it won’t be host-driven and will be “episodic content” driven by shows, including one called “Barn Babes.”

Third place: Krystal Middleton — Hockey Leggings, which sells Golden Knights and other National Hockey League team colored leggings

The 2016 Coronado High School alumna, who was born and raised in Henderson, is a licensed real estate agent.

She launched Hockey Leggings in June 2018 after falling in love with the Vegas Golden Knights, she said. The team had its first game shortly after the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting, Middleton told the audience, and she saw the team members doing a lot to help the community.

Runners-up

Christopher Campbell — Beach Bark Brittle Co., which sells multi-flavored sweet treats

The company had humble beginnings in Redondo Beach, California, Campbell said, when the treats — a family recipe — were shared with family and friends.

He started bagging the treats to sell in venues such as craft fairs, farmers markets and fundraisers. The company was founded in 2017, and products are sold online.

As he wrapped up his pitch, Campbell said, “It’s an honor to be here tonight, along with my fellow presenters, as we navigate building a new brand.”

Melissa Taubman — Pinky’s Up GF Pizza Crust, which sells gluten-, soy-, corn-, egg- and dairy-free pizza crusts, and premade pizzas

Taubman said her company sells gluten- and allergen-free pizza crusts so thick “you have to hold your pinky up to eat it.”

Taubman told the audience she has Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition that went undiagnosed for a long time. She said she felt awful and wasn’t getting the help she needed from conventional medicine, so she started making dietary modifications, including going gluten-free.

Taubman told the audience her son suffered a stroke at birth, and she wants to ensure financial stability for him.

In response to a question from a judge, Taubman said she makes crusts in a shared kitchen that’s not certified gluten-free. She said she’s careful about cleaning and avoiding cross contamination.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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