LANSING, Mich. – Jerry Norris loves seeing new ideas grow.

Through his work at the Fledge, a community center with multiple ongoing programs and charitable efforts, Norris focuses on innovating ways to lend a helping hand in Lansing.

99 Problems but a Pitch Ain’t One, which takes its moniker from the famous Jay-Z song, is a project that functions like popular shows like “Shark Tank.” It is streamed weekly on the Fledge’s Facebook page.

Anybody with an idea for an art project, product, or service, can sign up to present it on 99 Problems. Norris said practically any idea, in any stage of its existence, is welcome.

“There are very few rules involved. Anybody, anywhere in the world can pitch whatever idea they want. It can be an idea they came up with today, it can be a company they’ve been running for years,” Norris said. They can be 5 years old, or they can be 80 years old. Everyone is welcome.”

Contestants have 99 seconds to pitch their idea. After everybody has given their pitch, the stream’s viewers will vote for their favorite pitch.

Whoever garners the most votes is then awarded $99. In the case of a tie, the money is divided.

The idea for 99 Problems came about amid the worst days of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the pandemic, a lot of entrepreneurs were dying to be social. We started an online version of a pitch competition, we didn’t want it to last all night, so we chose 99 seconds as the time we would use,” Norris said.

Norris hopes that he can help aspiring entrepreneurs become better at the art of pitching their passion projects to would-be investors.

Red Bike Delivery, a local delivery service started by Jeremy Hurt, got its start as a pitch on 99 Problems. It has since garnered a significant clientele base in Lansing’s east side neighborhood.

Recent winners on 99 Problems include Shannon Norris and Kendra Schneider, who tied on the July 12 broadcast. Norris presented a pitch for a local scout program, while Schneider shared her idea for a service that would promote the use of returnable containers called Takeout Takeout.

“Throughout your entire day as an entrepreneur, you’re pitching. You’re pitching to customers; you’re pitching to investors, banks or even employees – in today’s environment you must be a good employer to attract employees,” Norris said.

Those interested can sign up for 99 Problems by messaging the Fledge on social media, or by visiting the Fledge in-person on Tuesday evenings.