PORTLAND — A trio of Lewiston-area entrepreneurs made it to the final round of the Top Gun business pitch-off in Portland on Thursday night but failed to take home the top prize.

My Waffle, a waffle-oriented kitchen-on-wheels created by a pair of local men, and i-Tell Alert, technology from a Winthrop occupational therapist, lost to the creator of a plant-based ice cream shop and to the inventor of a system that provides early detection for peripheral neuropathy.

The winners of the annual event were awarded $25,000 prizes to help get their businesses running.

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

My Waffle, expected to debut at the Memorial Day parade in Auburn, is the brainchild of Kevin Cunningham, a chef from Lewiston, and Jason Buckman, a beer salesman who lives in Bowdoin Center. The pair made it to the Top Gun finals after winning in the regional business pitch-off earlier in the month.

In their pitch, Bucknam 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 — which is named Sweet Melissa, by the way.

“We can change our menu every single day,” Cunningham said after the regional contest May 9. “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.”


I-Tell Alert, a wrist-worn gadget that reminds an elderly person to use a walker, was created by Winthrop occupational therapist Heather Desjardins.

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 during the regional pitch-off, “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,” Desjardins said. “I-Tell Alert is technology to remember.”

Top Gun LA is part of the larger Maine Center for Entrepreneurs’ statewide Top Gun program designed to help young businesses get off the ground and existing business prep for growth. Company heads, who are paired with mentors, meet weekly for classes on all things business starting in February, culminating in a pitch-off competition.

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