Local Entrepreneurs Shine at Tech Tank: Piercd by Embark Named Emerging Startup of the Year, Byline Secures Second Place

by | May 13, 2024 | Members

Home » Local Entrepreneurs Shine at Tech Tank: Piercd by Embark Named Emerging Startup of the Year, Byline Secures Second Place

Lafayette, LA – Local entrepreneurs took center stage at Opportunity Machine’s Tech Tank, where Piercd, a new venture by the founders of Embark Fine Jewelry, was crowned the 2024 Emerging Startup of the Year, and Byline, a print media-focused startup, claimed second place. The event, part of Innovate South, showcased six emerging tech startups from South Louisiana.

Inspired by the harrowing ear-piercing experience of one founder’s daughter, the co-founders of Embark Fine Jewelry—Erin Judice, Katie Kennedy, and Michelle Robertson—set out to create Piercd, a safer, more comfortable alternative to the traditional ear-piercing experience.

After launching Embark Fine Jewelry in 2020 and using their storefront to offer ear piercings performed by Nurse Practitioners with a single use hollow needle in a private, upscale environment, they knew they wanted to offer the same experience to customers across the United States. Seeing demand for this experience firsthand, the trio wondered how they could scale this experience outside of the walls of their own storefront in Lafayette, LA, without buying up brick-and-mortar locations across the country.

Similarly, the idea for Byline came to founder Shanna Dickens as a personal pain point while working in the print media industry. Observing both daily influxes of story ideas from individuals and growing industry coverage gaps, Dickens envisioned Byline as a bridge between traditional print media and modern technology.

Seeking guidance to pioneer these new concepts, both startups joined the Opportunity Machine (OM) and participated in the OM’s Builder Program 2.0, where they were matched with local business mentors who helped them refine their vision and think about how to scale these concepts nationally.

The Piercd team was paired with another local entrepreneur, Tom Cox, founder of golfballs.com, while Byline’s founder, Dickens, was paired with Matt Delcambre, Deputy CIO at UL Lafayette.

With the guidance provided by the Opportunity Machine and these local mentors, Piercd refined and built their concept into a technology platform that connects end consumers who want safer ear-piercing experiences, with licensed piercers who want to earn extra income, with existing retail stores looking to bring additional foot traffic into stores by hosting piercings.

Meanwhile, Byline refined their vision to reinvent the way hyperlocal content is curated. Byline provides a two-way marketplace platform that allows content creators to capture key elements of stories: quotes, images, videos, etc. Through a streamlined process that leverages AI, Byline then turns these elements into an article to be published, and the content creator is paid, seamlessly taking “I have a great idea for a story” from Pitch to Publish.

The two startups unveiled their concepts at Tech Tank, where they presented to a panel of four esteemed judges and came out on top of the six startups that pitched.

Robertson, who pitched for Piercd, shared, “We are deeply honored to be named the Emerging Startup of the Year at Innovate South. This award is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and creativity of our team, as well as the support of our partners, investors, and the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Lafayette.”

Piercd wasted no time in capitalizing on their win, hosting a successful pop-up piercing event at Festival International de Louisiane in partnership with Motier Lafayette.

“Tech Tank serves as a crucial platform for emerging startups like Piercd and Byline to showcase their innovative ideas and gain necessary exposure,” remarked Destin Ortego, Executive Director at Opportunity Machine. “Events like Innovate South further underscore OM’s commitment to supporting early-stage technology and innovative startups.”

For more information about Piercd and how you can partner, visit www.getpiercd.com.

For more information about Byline and how you can partner, visit www.bylineco.com.


About Piercd
Founded by co-owners of Embark Fine Jewelry, Erin Judice, Katie Kennedy, and Michelle Robertson, Piercd is a three-sided marketplace that connects someone looking to get their ears pierced with a piercer at a local retailer. To schedule to get Piercd or become a Piercd partner as a Retailer or Piercer, visit www.getpiercd.com.

About Byline
Byline Content Solution is a two-way marketplace that engages newspaper readers to create hyperlocal content. We take “I have a great idea for a story” from Pitch to Publish.

About Opportunity Machine
Opportunity Machine’s mission is to support and elevate early-stage technology, research-driven, and innovative startups. Our focus lies in nurturing tech and tech-enabled ventures through specialized business education, targeted mentorship, strategic networking opportunities, and a workspace environment designed to meet high-growth startups’ dynamic needs.

Photos for this news release can be found here. Photos by Paul Kieu.