Archive for ‘News’ Category


Entry Deadline is Looming | NIU EIGERlab gears up for 11th FastPitch Competition

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Rockford, Ill. — It’s “Shark Tank,” Rockford-style! NIU EIGERlab’s FastPitch will be held Wednesday, October 4 at NIU-Rockford.

Local innovators and entrepreneurs are invited to share their products, service, apps or “ideas on a napkin” for a chance to win a $5,000 first prize in addition to outstanding mentoring and exposure.

Now in its 11th year, FastPitch offers entrepreneurs, inventors, startups, pre-startups, existing business owners and students (high school seniors and college) the opportunity to “pitch” their business idea or innovative business to a panel of esteemed judges from the business and investment community. Winners take home not only cash prizes, but exposure to investors, business leaders, media, and potential mentors as well. Click on the link below for the complete news release.


NIU EIGERlab Re-establishing SCORE in the Rockford Region

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Rockford, Ill. — Community leaders gathered at NIU-Rockford Wednesday, June 7 to kick off an effort to re-establish a Rockford area SCORE chapter. The audience included elected officials economic development representatives, bankers, local business owners, and manufacturers.  Known as “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” SCORE is a nationwide organization bringing together seasoned business professionals with aspiring entrepreneurs for mentorship and counseling.

NIU EIGERlab is being supported in this effort by Fox Valley SCORE, SCORE Regional (Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan) and SCORE National.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney, Rockford Area Economic Development Council President Nathan Bryant, and Illinois Department of Commerce Northern Stateline Regional Manager Carrie Zethmayr welcomed the addition of SCORE to the growing list of small business and entrepreneur support services available in the area. They lauded the leadership of NIU and NIU EIGERlab’s in enhancing the innovation ecosystem. 

The primary goal of the kick-off event was to identify individuals in the community with an interest in being a SCORE counselor or helping to recruit counselors. SCORE has an impressive total of 11,000 volunteers in 320 locations in all 50 states.  SCORE volunteers include 65% retired business owners and executives, 30% individuals still in the workforce, and 5% below age 30, who provide special assistance with technology issues.

SCORE Regional Vice President Bob Kasprzak says the best SCORE counselors combine a robust resume with an empathetic approach – taking the time to understand clients’ values and aspirations as well as their business development needs.  

“We understand that entrepreneurs are putting everything on the line, Kasprzak said.  “They are leveraging their assets and future. This is important work and counselors have the ability to really make a difference in people’s lives, but they have to put themselves in the clients’ shoes to do so.”

SCORE offers traditional one-on-one counseling, virtual counseling for those in remote areas, and online “virtual conferences” to assist with a variety of small business owners’ needs including marketing, sales, financing, hiring, choosing a business location and more. Being a SCORE volunteer is a way to give back to your community, connect with business owners and pass on your knowledge to the next generation of entrepreneurs in your community.

In 2016, SCORE mentors helped clients start 54,072 businesses. There is a selection of customer successes profiled at along with volunteers’ videos which convey their rationale for assisting small businesses to achieve new levels of success in their existing businesses.

The Rockford SCORE office will be supported and housed at NIU EIGERlab, 8500 E. State St. There is a need for 10 to 15 counselors and all counselors will be trained.  Anyone with an interest in being a SCORE counselor is encouraged to call 815.965.3522.

For more information about NIU EIGERlab services, visit or call Sherry Pritz, 815.753.2192. Click on the link below for the complete news release.

NIU EIGERlab Re-establishing SCORE in the Rockford Region

2016 FastPitch Competition Winner, Michelle Gast with recoup BEAUTISCOOP

Thursday, October 6th, 2016


Rockford, Ill. —The 10th annual FastPitch Competition was a colossal success with thirty-four eager presenters sharing their ideas, products, services and apps vying for over $7,000 dollars in prizes and presenting, possibly, the Next Big Thing!

First place winner, Michelle Gast with her beauty-related product, recoup BEAUTISCOOP, took home the $5,000 first prize. Michelle’s product is a patented dual-ended beauty tool designed to scoop every last drop from tight-necked containers. It will be featured in the December issue of REAL SIMPLE magazine. Michelle, during the creation of her unique product, was a client of NIU EIGERlab’s Center for Product Development (C4PD). Visit for more information.

Second place winner, Charlie Hare, with his patented new tool, the Aerator™, offers an effective, new method to aerate walls that have been adversely affected by a flood. Charlie has also taken advantage of the resources of the C4PD including assistance with engineering, 3D printing, computer-aided design, and commercialization.

Nicole Jakob, third place winner, presented Renegade Made™, a new line of toys that “help teach kids to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Her toys have been manufactured and safety tested for children eight years and up, and was introduced into the toy market at the International Fair in NYC in February 2016. Visit for more information.

Author and coach, Vinni Cavallaro Torrisi, took home the coveted Dale Falconer Spirit of Entrepreneurship award including a six-month complimentary coworking and counseling at NIU EIGERlab’s LaunchPad! space in Rockford with her product, NowSizing™. “NowSizing™ is an educational process designed to help older adults navigate a stress-free, later life move.” Now-Sizing…Making Room for Life! is Vinni’s 44-page workbook that guides senior citizens and family members. Visit for more information.

The Freedom Field’s CleanTech award winner was Branden DeWitt with his Aquarius Fire Protection System™. Branden’s proven technology is a unique way to protect high-end homes in fire-prone areas far better than any system currently available. The system is patent pending and he’s in the process of seeking UL approval. Branden is also being assisted through the C4PD.

Last but not least, the winner of the Student award, Omar Saulters with his company, Salted Art Inc. Omar was a published author at the age of twelve and is excited to share his, first ever, teen publishing company. He truly believes in his “mission to redefine, reinvent, and reimagine what we believe teens are capable of.”

Finalists included:

  • Alejandra Chapel-Herrera Index | Note Taking App
  • Jim Hall RoP-RoW-Pro
  • Ana Elizarraga Make-up Brush Cleaning Machine
  • SiDi Huang ZipSeam
  • Jeremy Perrotta Pub Brewery Unique Beer Keg
  • Barbara Rhodes High Caliber Creations                        
  • Chris Wicklund Wick’s TravelCool Cake Carrier

Previous FastPitch presenters, Kerry Frank, CEO and Co-Founder of Comply365 and Kristan McNames, owner of Grace Funeral & Cremation Services delivered thought-provoking keynote speeches injected with humor and “the good, the bad and the ugly” of becoming successful entrepreneurs.

For more information on the FastPitch Competition, visit the NIU EIGERlab website at For additional information, call Sherry Pritz at (815) 753-2192.

2016 May NIU EIGERlab Newsletter

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

25 People Who Inspire | Northwest Quarterly


Click here to download the May newsletter (PDF format).

NIU EIGERlab gears up for 10th FastPitch Competition

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
2015 FastPitch Competition Winners!

2015 FastPitch Competition Winners!

News Release

For Immediate Release

March 29, 2016
Media Contact: Sherry Pritz,
Marketing Coordinator | Business Development
(815) 753-2192 |

Rockford, Ill. — It’s “Shark Tank,” Rockford-style!

This year marks the 10th anniversary of NIU EIGERlab’s FastPitch Competition. Because the competition has been so successful year after year, attracting upward of more than 40 presenters, organizers can only venture to guess that’s why ABC started “Shark Tank,” a reality television series, that is very similar in scope.

Local innovators and entrepreneurs are invited to share their products, service or “ideas on a napkin” for a chance to win a $5,000 first prize in addition to outstanding mentoring and exposure.

This year’s FastPitch Competition will be held Wednesday, Sept. 28, at NIU-Rockford.

fastpitch-logoFor full FastPitch Competition details, flier and registration form, visit the NIU EIGERlab website at Business pitches must be submitted in writing (1,000 words or less) to For additional information, call Sherry Pritz at (815) 753-2192.

Click here for the complete news release.

Maker movement part of Rockford’s past, will help develop its future

Monday, March 21st, 2016


Your toes owe a debt to a Swedish immigrant who came to Rockford in the 1800s and invented an automatic knitting machine that mass produced socks on South Main Street.

Maybe one day soon there’ll be a digital gizmo to protect much more than our toes. And maybe it’s being invented right now by a kid in Rockford who’s sitting on a couch, hunched over a laptop, cranking out lines of code…


Click here for the complete article.

NIU EIGERlab March 2016 Newsletter

Monday, March 7th, 2016

-Introducing Launch Pad!Room165_9718

NIU EIGERlab’s Launch Pad coworking space supports a regional community of like-minded inventors, designers, hackers, developers, solopreneurs and early-stage innovative businesses by providing a fluid environment to convene, learn, collaborate and commercialize next generation digital and physical product-based businesses. Launch Pad delivers a supportive atmosphere for ideation, implementation and collaboration to accelerate the growth of your enterprise.

-March Meetup | “Circuit Building 101: Intro to Electronics”

-February’s Innovation Tuesday Meetup–informative!

February’s Innovation Tuesday Meetup’s panel on, “What is Intellectual Property,” was very informative. They provided a wealth of knowledge, answered a wide variety of questions and provided feedback on many real-world scenarios including…

Click here to read the panelists’ biosFor the complete

Click here for the complete March 2016 newsletter.

WTVO highlights NIU EIGERlab’s place in Rockford’s history of innovation

Friday, March 4th, 2016

InnovativeNIU EIGERlab hopes to increase jobs and create wealth in the region, with a unique project to make Rockford a leader in manufacturing innovation once again.

Rockford has a rich history of inventors starting companies within the Forest City as far back as 1870, when Amos Woodward invented controls for waterwheels, thus starting Woodward Governor.  John Nelson created the knitting machine that launched Nelson Knitting in 1868.  Howard Coleman’s many inventions included the electric garage door opener and the Check Pump that began Barber-Coleman Company in 1894.

That same innovative spirit can be found at NIU EIGERlab.

Click here for the complete story including historical footage, interviews, and more.

Rockford’s SockTABs couple to make live pitch Monday on Home Shopping Network

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

ROCKFORD — After successfully pitching their SockTABs invention to a group of investors on “Shark Tank” last November, Glen and Tracie Burress are ready to stand before a different sea of people: American consumers.

They will travel from Rockford to Tampa Sunday to appear on “The Monday Night Show with Adam Freeman: The American Dreams Edition,” a series on HSN, formerly Home Shopping Network.

It airs at 6 p.m. Monday and will highlight several successful entrepreneurs across the country.

Click here for the complete Rockford Register Star article.

Glen and Tracie were also featured as two of the Rockford Register Star’s People to Watch in 2016. Rockford Register Star link.

People to Watch 2016: Rockford inventors Glenn and Tracie Burress gain momentum after TV appearance

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

This article is part of our People to Watch special section, which publishes Sunday. Each year we highlight some of the most intriguing, passionate and community-minded people in the Rock River Valley.

ROCKFORD — Tracie and Glenn Burress are putting Rockford’s best foot forward with their invention, sockTABs. The couple’s colorful pins that connect socks so they never lose their “sole” mates have gone international after they appeared on the hit ABC show “Shark Tank” on Nov. 20. Daymond John, one of the show’s investors and CEO of the FUBU apparel line, offered to invest $50,000 in sockTABs in exchange for 30 percent ownership in their company.A viewing party for the couple’s prime-time TV appearance drew hundreds to Big Al’s Bar at Giovanni’s. It was a rowdy, joyous event filled with lots of cheers and libations.

“The amount of community support from Rockford has been unimaginable,” Tracie Burress said. “If I was back home in Chicago I would not receive this kind of support.”

Rockford Register Star link.