ST. LOUIS - A million bucks is on the line as 46 passionate entrepreneurs from around the world are in St. Louis to compete for the cash from the non-profit Arch Grant.
Two women who live and work in St. Louis are going head to head for the grant. One of them is from New York, the other is from California. They went to school in St. Louis, and they live here because they love it and they love their startups.
Tara Pham's company, CTY, is a finalist for the arch grant.
"It will change the way cities and businesses plan their spaces. We collect data in real time about things like pedestrian activity air quality noise pollution," said Pham.
She's got competition from a woman named Zoe Scharf, who was making a box out of a greeting card when we found her.
"The message is the most important part of the gift," said Scharf.
She and her business partner turned his idea into Greetabl.
"Right off the bat we got nine retail shops that were happy to sell," said Scharf.
Pham and Scharf are going head to head, from their home offices, 30 feet apart.
"We work together on plenty of things and we live together," said Scharf.
They are best friends. They both applied for the Arch Grants and shared their good news with each other when they heard they were both finalists.
"My ideal scenario would be that we both leave this competition as arch grants winners," said Scharf. St. Louis, they said, is the best place for a startup.
"Tara and I decided to stay from the coasts because they're so many resources here and everybody wants you to succeed," said Scharf. They've been each others big resources even though they are competitors.
"There are little ways I've helped Greetabl, and there's big ways she's helped CTY," said Pham. Work consumes them, it doesn't get between them.
"Sometimes it's opting to carpool somewhere so we can get those 20 minutes in together," said Pham.
The women were both invited to Thursday night's Arch Grants kickoff to hob nob with successful people. They drove together to help each other shine. One of them, both of them, or neither one could walk away with the cash.
The Arch Grants judges will hear the pitches from the entrepreneurs on Saturday. They'll decide in May who gets a $50,000 piece of the $1 million pie.
A public demonstration will be held Saturday, April 26 from 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. downtown at the St. Louis Public Library. A send-off reception will then be held from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Missouri Athletic Club.