Their product is simple: a bottled formula that un-shrinks shrunken sweaters. Their goal is big: land an ad that airs during the Super Bowl.
Boston startup Unshrinkit, which started two years ago, is working around the clock to score points in a competition to get a slot in the most prized advertising space imaginable, squaring off against nine other small businesses in a quest for the most votes.
The contest, called Small Business Big Game, is run by Intuit, the company that makes Quickbooks accounting software. A panel of judges picked 10 businesses, including Unshrinkit, from a pool of 15,000 applicants, a spokesperson said.
A spot during the “big game” (for copyright reasons they can’t call it the Super Bowl, so they call it the “big game”) would be a big deal for Unshrinkit, said Nate Barbera, chief innovation officer.
“Talk about blowing the doors off a business,” Barbera said in an interview at the Seaport startup accelerator MassChallenge, where the company is headquarterd.
An engineer by training, Barbera, 30, claims he came up with the Unshrinkit formula by studying wool textbooks on loan from the library, then sloshing chemicals together in his Harvard dorm.
Barbera and co-founder Desiree Stolar, the company’s 30-year-old CEO, teamed up to sell the product as part of a first-year course at the Harvard Business School. They both graduated in May.
Stolar said she has already dreamed up ideas for a potential commercial for football’s biggest event, which more than 100 million people watched last year, and for which advertisers paid a reported $4.5 million for a 30-second spot.
Stolar said, for example, a college student comes home for the holidays wearing a shriveled-up sports team sweater, and grandma comes to the rescue with a bottle of Unshrinkit, she mused.
“I just have this vision,” she said.
To make it happen, they would need tens of thousands of votes online. To get them, they said, they are on a big media and marketing push to recruit supporters.
Reality TV star, small business owner and “Apprentice” Season 1 winner Bill Rancic, a spokesman for the competition, flew to Boston this week to meet Unshrinkit and offer some advice on besting their competitors.
Rancic, who is visiting all 10 finalists over a 10-city tour told Metro he believes Unshrinkit could have what it takes if they can pull-off a marketing blitz by November.
“They’ve got to mobilize. They’ve got to get the people within their community to rally behind them,” he said. “At some point the numbers are going to speak volumes.”
Intuit would not say publicly how many votes each contender has so far, and planned to keep the rankings secret throughout the competition, according to a spokesperson.
Competition organizers were set to announce the top three contenders in early November, then announce a winner a few weeks later.
Last year’s winner was a company called GoldieBlox, which makes toys designed to stoke an interest in engineering in young girls.
Here's the ad for the GoldieBlox: