Entrepreneurs are known for bringing cutting-edge innovation to the market. And Heman Au’s emerging Duo Kitchenware product is literally cutting edge.
An Arizona State University senior studying industrial design, Au developed a two-handed knife and special cutting board for people with disabilities or diminished dexterity.
“My Number One goal is to empower people around the kitchen, including seniors who might have trouble with kitchen tools,” said Au, 31, who previously earned a mechanical-engineering degree from the University of California-San Diego.
Duo Kitchenware, based at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, has already earned accolades and Au is in the running for additional acclaim and start-up funding.
He is one of five regional finalists for the Miller Lite Tap the Future competition.
The event, which includes a pitch to ABC’s “Shark Tank” judge Daymond John, is set for Oct. 15 at the Talking Stick Resort east of Scottsdale.
The winner will compete against four other regional winners in December for a $250,000 prize.
The other regional competitors are:
Showstoppers Soft Serve Frozen Treats, a Phoenix company selling ice cream from a state-of-the-art vending truck.
Arden Reed, a Phoenix-based mobile tailor aimed at helping men.
Cheersable, a San Francisco company with an app allowing customers to send an adult-beverage credit to a friend that can redeemed at more than 4,000 restaurants.
Larell One Step Denture, a company in Carmel Valley, Calif., that allows patients to be fitted with dentures in one visit of about an hour.
“We’re giving an opportunity to all types of entrepreneurs,” said Steve Canal, MillerCoors manager of community commerce and partnerships.
Tap the Future had more than 2,000 entries.
Au of Duo Kitchenware hatched his idea more than three years ago when he was dining with his aunt in Palo Alto, Calif. She has cafe and catering company that trains workers with disabilities.
He developed an early prototype of his two-handed knife for a class project last year. It has a curved blade and the user puts both hands on the handle of the D-shaped knife.
The cutting board has a lip to keep diced food from falling off and is slightly elevated so it is easier to pick up.
Duo Kitchenware was awarded $5,000 for the design by ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative. The product also won first place at the 2013 International Housewares Association’s student design competition.
Au said he knows the competition will be tough in the Tap the Future pitch to judges.
“I think what they’re doing is great,” he said of the other fledgling companies. “A lot of them are great ideas.”
The event at Talking Stick Resort is open to a limited number of people over age 21 who make a reservation. Visit MLTaptheFuture.com to RSVP and to see competitors’ videos.