EDWARDSVILLE, IL - A vintage baseball bat manufacturer captured first place in the Metro East Startup Challenge, a regional business plan competition conducted for entrepreneurs in Southwestern Illinois.
Sole proprietor Todd “Dutch” Eschman, founder of Old Dutch Classic Bats in Swansea, IL, nabbed the $10,000 first prize from among more than 30 competitors. Eschman's firm manufactures custom baseball bats for vintage baseball players. The avid players wear period reproduction uniforms and follow the rules and customs of the game as it was played in the mid-to-late 1800s.
There are more than 130 vintage baseball clubs around the country, creating an easily identifiable market for Old Dutch Classic Bats. Eschman offers six models, made of ash or maple, and turned on a lathe in about 30 minutes. They sell for about $70 each; he has sold 100 so far, according to the Belleville News Democrat, where he is general manager.
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University Park at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville sponsored the event, with PNC Bank and the St. Louis Regional Chamber serving as award sponsors. The SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge is designed to recognize and reward excellence in entrepreneurship.
Of 30+ entrants, 15 semifinalists were invited to submit full business plans which were evaluated by a team of 10 volunteer judges. Six business teams were selected to make a final presentation.
On April 28, the finalists delivered three-minute pitches to a panel of expert judges followed by five minutes of questions and answers. The winners were announced in front of the live audience.
The event was designed to draw attention to the Small Business Development Center at the University, which is a service to the community supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the SIUE School of Business.
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