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Wal-Mart contest inspires Long Island entrepreneurs

Vinny Mazzurco in the batting cage at his

Vinny Mazzurco in the batting cage at his Selden home. (Aug. 19, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Vinny Mazzurco, a self-proclaimed connoisseur of a winning baseball swing, is looking to Wal-Mart's Get on the Shelf contest to bring his DVD of batting lessons to the world.

"It's like a knife through butter when you connect for a solid line drive or a home run or a double," Mazzurco, 32, of Wading River, said. "When it just hits that sweet spot of the bat, it's an incredible feeling."

Now Mazzurco and more than 30 Long Island individuals and companies are hoping to hit the sweet spot in Wal-Mart's contest, in which the public votes for their favorite video pitches for products. The locals are among thousands of inventors and entrepreneurs entering the competition.

The 20 contestants who garner the highest votes, and the nod of Wal-Mart merchants, will have their stories and products featured on webisodes produced by Vimby, the digital studio associated with Mark Burnett, the producer of TV series such as "Shark Tank" and "Survivor." A total of five winners will have the chance to sell their products on, and possibly in Walmart stores.

"It's an interesting way to engage with customers and give them a voice in helping them to pick products they want to purchase from Walmart," said Ravi Jariwala, a Wal-Mart spokesman.

Mazzurco, an accountant at a large tech firm by day, is a former high school baseball player who runs an instructional, membership-only website and produces DVDs called "Baseball Swing Mastery," now selling in local stores and on Amazon. He figures he could sell millions of DVDs if they got onto Walmart's shelves.

Diane Carpentieri, 55, a Greenport real estate broker, decided to enter her portable cooling water bowl for pets in the contest. She said she already sells her K9 Cooler online and in several stores.

"It's great advertising," Carpentieri said, "and, should I win, I have a nice order."

Marcus E. Walker, a Postal Service worker, hopes a deal with Wal-Mart will boost his sales of organic bath and body products, Elliott Organics. Like Carpentieri, he made sure to have his products made in the USA. While organic items tend to be more expensive, he says a high-volume order from Wal-Mart would lower retail prices.

"You get into Wal-Mart, and you are not just talking the United States alone, you are talking Canada," Walker said. "Anybody who gets into Wal-Mart just blew up."

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