Cooler Commander wins Paducah pitch contest

PADUCAH, Ky. – Jason Carnes came up with an idea for his product, the Cooler Commander, out of frustration. Out riding ATVs with his buddies one winter day, he wasted 10 minutes securing his cooler with straps for the second time that day. He started looking at the array of contraptions his friends used to tie down a cooler. Later that day, he went to work in his garage to devise his prototype.

The Cooler Commander is a versatile system of straps that can be adjusted to fit most coolers. Four tie-downs secure the cooler to an ATV, golf cart or boat. A big plus: no straps or cords blocking the way when you want to open the cooler for a drink.

Carnes says he learned to sew in order to make his first products, and he still makes them all by hand. He has sold the product to all his buddies and applied for a patent. Word has spread so rapidly, he can hardly keep up with orders.

Cooler Commander won top prize at Paducah’s regional pitch competition sponsored by the Kentucky Innovation Network recently. The win comes with a $1,000 award and an invitation to pitch to the Kentucky Angel Investors Network in Louisville this December.

“At the pitch competition, I came in so nervous that my hands were sweaty and my stomach was full of butterflies,” said Carnes. “I had worked so hard for weeks on my presentation. And now I had to speak in front of people. I went up and gave it 100 percent and ended up winning. I have to give a lot of credit to Dan and (assistant director) Tom (Curtsinger) at the Paducah Innovation Network for helping me get started and encouraging me along the way. I have learned a lot from them and I am so glad that there are people I can turn to for advice and direction. This win was a huge boost of confidence and I look forward to continuing to build the Cooler Commander brand.”

Paducah’s pitch competition was the last in a series of 11 events held throughout the state. Earlier this year, Covington, Lexington, Morehead, Louisville, Ashland, London, Pikeville, Richmond, Elizabethtown and Murray held regional competitions.

“In this fast-growing and highly competitive business environment, it’s harder than ever for a startup to gain recognition. The Paducah office of the Kentucky Innovation Network gave that opportunity to five local start-ups with this pitch competition,” said Dan Lazarevic, director of the Paducah office. “The event attracted local bankers, attorneys, investors and the general public to be a part of the first pitch competition hosted in Paducah, Kentucky.”

The pitch competition, now in its second year, was sponsored by the Kentucky Innovation Network, the Office of Entrepreneurship within the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and the Kentucky Angel Investors Network. For more information on the competition, visit

Source: Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

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Jeannie Oliver

Jeannie Oliver is a writer and PR practitioner with a long string of awards behind her name. With a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Jeannie has worked as a high school journalism teacher, an editor for the Appaloosa Journal, and a media spokesperson for...