Above: Pitch RI 2023 winner Gresh Chapman holds his big check, flanked by the three other contestants, judges, emcees and organizers at the Greenwich Odeum Sept. 20.
The first-ever event took place Sept. 20 at the Greenwich Odeum
The kid won.
Gresh Chapman was the youngest of the four finalists for the first-ever Pitch RI, a shark-tank like competition at the Greenwich Odeum Sept. 20, and he admitted later it was a bit intimidating. But, in the end, it was Chapman’s EcoForm idea that won over judges, so they awarded him the $10,000 prize.
Chapman, a junior majoring in industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design, is behind EcoForm, a sustainable biocomposite material developed with automotive manufacturers in mind as an alternative to fiberglass, a highly toxic material for those who work with it.
“Before coming to RISD, I wasn’t a materials guy so much,” Chapman said. “I came across very quickly how toxic fiberglass was – I even had some lung problems when I worked with fiberglass.” Chapman is a racing car enthusiast and he got involved with the Brown University racing team, where most of the cars are made of carbon fiber. It turns out carbon fiber is even more toxic.
“I thought, where can I improve this,” he said. He looked to Europe, which represents the leading edge in race car innovation, and where companies were already working with natural fibers.
“I’d like to trailblaze that,” Chapman decided, thinking of the U.S. market.
EcoForm is made from flax, a plentiful flowering plant traditionally used for making cloth, paper and rope. Chapman has already contracted with a Formula 3 racing team to demo EcoForm and the prize money will go toward that, he said.
“He is taking a chance on us,” Chapman said.
“Gresh was impressive from the start,” said Pitch RI originator Len Iannuccilli. Iannuccilli, a member of the EG News board member, brought his vision to EG News, which headed up the event with a host of sponsors.
Chapman had tough competition, facing three other creators: Alexandra Champlin and her surf “helmet”; Tyson Demarest and his military headset; and Victor Regino and his Papis Refrescos Coquito beverage. In the end, judges Heather Provino-Scanlon, Greg Dantas, Stephen Hardy and Holly Ferrera, made the difficult decision to opt for Chapman.
“It feels great to win,” Chapman said, adding it was a blast to spend time with the other contestants.
The evening emcees were Will Gilbert of the Rhode Show and Jessica Schiano of WPRO-FM and the East Greenwich High School Jazz Band provided music before and during the show.