Pitch puts prize in the bag for budding businesswoman

WINNER: Suzanne Carroll and Regional Pitchfest founder Dianna Somerville with the Cool Clutch handbags that Ms Carroll designed.

WINNER: Suzanne Carroll and Regional Pitchfest founder Dianna Somerville with the Cool Clutch handbags that Ms Carroll designed.

Bendigo's new Shark Tank-style Regional Pitchfest has been won by Suzanne Carroll and her line of cooler handbags.

Five regionally-based startup businesses had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges at The Engine Room.

The Cool Clutch handbags Ms Carroll designed feature an insulated interior, which can keep food and drinks warm or cold.

Ms Carroll, based in Gisborne, said winning the Pitchfest had been a tough experience, but extremely rewarding.

"It was a real buzz just to be accepted as a finalist, but then to actually go and win was beyond my dreams," she said. "It was quite nerve-racking, walking out to the loud music and standing there with a microphone. I'm not used to that, I've only practised at home with my hairbrush but it's not quite the same when you've got all those people looking at you."

The Cool Clutch range was designed to fill what Ms Carroll saw as a clear gap in the market.

"I'd searched the world for a ladies cooler bag and I didn't find one," she said.

"I found brightly coloured ones for children, but there really wasn't anything particularly designed for ladies with style."

While initially intended to allow women to stylishly carry wine to dinners and events, the Cool Clutch range has evolved to offer many different practical bags for women. Importantly, while allowing women to carry their everyday items and keep their lunches and drinks cold, the judges saw benefit for people needing to keep medicines cold.

"Our customers have said to us 'that would have been great when I was on IVF and there was nothing out there for me', or 'that is great because I'm diabetic and I need to carry an epipen'," Ms Carroll said.

Having patented the design, Ms Carroll plans on taking her business overseas.

"The orders are increasing in the run to Christmas, but we're worried about after that," she said. 

"So what we will do is take our business overseas and follow the sun to Europe. We want to be a household name by 2020, and then takeover the world." 

The award's judges included Startup Victoria chief executive Georgia Beattie and rural entrepreneur Kerry Anderson.

Ms Carroll received $5000 for her first prize, while runner-up Erin Griffin received $3500. 

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