Jason Bucknam, right, and Kevin Cunningham make their My Waffle pitch during the Top Gun Regional Pitch Off in Auburn on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

AUBURN — A two-man, infectiously funny pitch for a new Lewiston-based food truck and a Winthrop startup with a bracelet that vibrates, lights up and sounds off when you forget to use your walker won the regional Top Gun LA pitch-off Thursday morning.

Jason Bucknam and Kevin Cunningham drove their My Waffle food truck to the Top Gun Regional Pitch Off in Auburn on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

Now, it’s on to the state finals in two weeks where they’ll vie for two $25,000 prizes.

Seven businesses gave five-minute pitches each to a packed house during the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn, the culmination of their 10-week Top Gun LA class.

“I’m kind of blown away,” said Kevin Cunningham, one half of My Waffle with Jason Bucknam. “I just love to cook and the opportunity to represent our community in a state competition and grow our business is great.”

In their pitch, Bucknam, a beer salesman, said he’d originally had an idea for a fast-food eatery that was like the Subway of waffles — choose a style, choose toppings. Cunningham, a career chef and longtime friend, nixed it as too expensive and steered the partnership toward a food truck.

My Waffle, making 9-inch Belgium waffles inside their kitchen-on-wheels, Sweet Melissa, was born.

It will debut later this month during the Memorial Day Parade in Auburn.

Jason Bucknam, left, and Kevin Cunningham make their My Waffle pitch during the Top Gun Regional Pitch Off in Auburn on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

“We can change our menu every single day,” Cunningham said. “We can be at Movies in the Park and we can have a banana split waffle with bananas and all those different toppings. The next day, we’re at Great Falls Brew Fest and we’ve got pulled pork and carne asada on waffles, so we have that flexibility that a lot of restaurants can’t have.”

Winning one of the $25,000 prizes would allow them to get a full graphics wrap on the truck, pay down equipment debt and build an emergency reserve.

“We bootstrapped the money to buy that truck,” Cunningham said. “If something happens to Sweet Melissa, we need to be able to fix her and get her right back on the road.”

Heather Desjardins of i-Tell Alert said she was surprised and excited to be a finalist.

“There was such great competition,” she said.

Desjardins, a Winthrop occupational therapist, said in her pitch that seniors want to stay independent as long as possible, but safety can become an issue with 2.8 million injuries from falls each year in the U.S.

Heather Desjardins makes her pitch for i-Tell Alert during the Top Gun Regional Pitch Off in Auburn on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

“Poor balance is the main cause of elderly falls,” she said, and a walker is a common solution, “however, many of them don’t remember to use their walkers consistently.”

The i-Tell device attaches to a walker and electronically links to a wrist bracelet.

“It’s always there reminding them, even when caregivers can’t be,” she said. “i-Tell Alert is technology to remember.”

Prize money would help develop the final, commercial device. They’ll be manufactured and distributed by AMI of Winthrop.

She has conservatively forecast first-year sales at $850,000 and hopes to have i-Tell on the market by the end of summer.

“Our technical experts are ready to move forward, but we need funding for this final step and that is why I’m here,” Desjardins said.

Heather Desjardins, center, was was selected as one of two winners of the Top Gun Regional Pitch Off following her pitch for i-Tell Alert in Auburn on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

Mike Duguay, executive director of the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation at Thomas College, Susan Ruhlin, director of business development for Introspective Systems and Steve Musica, president of Lean East, served as the morning’s judges.

They also heard pitches from Carrie Mayo for her social justice and environmentally focused marketing firm; Michele Praught for a nature-based virtual reality experience that ties in with therapy; Misty Edgecomb for a new gift-giving app that stores kids’ interests and sizes for friends and family to easily see; Elizabeth Conley-Leprene for an Old Orchard Beach luxury spa and product line; and Sahro Hassan for her line of trendy, modest fashion.

Top Gun Regional Pitch Off judges Susan Ruhlin and Steve Musica applaud following a pitch by fashion designer Sahro Hassan in Auburn on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

Top Gun LA is part of the larger Maine Center for Entrepreneurs’ statewide Top Gun program and is hosted locally by the chamber.

Organizer Scott Benson said the two finalists picked Thursday will face eight other regional finalists from Portland, Waterville, Bangor and Rockland in two weeks.

The Maine Technology Institute is sponsoring one of the $25,000 prizes, David E. Shaw, the founder of IDEXX, the other.

Fashion designer Sahro Hassan makes her pitch for The Fashionji Solution during the Top Gun Regional Pitch Off judges in Auburn on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

Jason Bucknam, right, and Kevin Cunningham react after their My Waffle pitch was selected as one of two winners of the Top Gun Regional Pitch Off in Auburn on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

filed under: