Gorham Savings Bank, a leading Southern Maine financial services institution, has selected five Maine businesses as the finalists of its annual LaunchPad small business competition.
From an applicant pool of over 180 businesses, American Roots, Bangs Island Mussels, Blue Ox Malthouse, North Spore, and Wallace James Clothing Co. rose to the top and will move onto the next round – a live pitch competition to be held the evening of Tuesday, June 5 at USM’s Hannaford Hall in Portland.
There, in front of a live audience, an independent panel of judges will decide which of these small-but-promising Maine businesses will be awarded the $50,000 grant from Gorham Savings Bank. LaunchPad judges will be Winxnet CEO and Co-founder Chris Claudio, Steve Campbell, founder and CEO, Pro-voke and Catherine Cloudman, an owner and CFO, Village Fertility Pharmacy.
Now in its sixth year, Gorham Savings Bank’s LaunchPad helps Maine innovators and entrepreneurs get to the next stage. Entries for this year’s competition were submitted via an online form during the entry period of March 15-April 15.
While each of this year’s finalists operates in a different niche, common threads among what they offer include food, farming and manufacturing.
American Roots, located in Westbrook, is a family-run manufacturer that makes 100 percent American-made, Union-made customized apparel using 100 percent USA-sourced raw materials. Founded in 2015, AR’s innovative workforce training program has given new Americans in need the opportunity to learn how to sew, earn good wages and ultimately enhance their lives.
Bangs Island Mussels, from Portland, is a family-owned and operated sustainable aquaculture company. They farm-raise mussels, scallops and kelp locally in the cool, clean waters of Casco Bay. Bangs Island Mussels have been cultivated in complete harmony with their environment. Their mussels can be found in fine restaurants in Maine and around the country.
Blue Ox Malthouse of Lisbon Falls, a returning finalist from 2016, turns raw grain from local farms into malt used by craft breweries to differentiate their products. As a bonus, the farmer-brewer link promotes economic sustainability, too.
Operating out of Westbrook, North Spore, a returning finalist from 2017, produces specialty mushrooms, mushroom products and mushroom spawn, and is changing the way the world interacts with mushrooms through innovation and education. The company produces gourmet mushrooms and spawn for both retail and commercial use. North Spore is striving to be a community hub for fungi enthusiasts: a place where people learn to love mushrooms and admire this often overlooked biological kingdom.
Rounding out the finalists, Wallace James Clothing Co. of Portland, provides the ability to design, develop and produce garments all under one roof with a dedication to education at each phase. Wallace James’ studio accommodates a full sourcing library to support independent and emerging designers.
“Access to capital is still the main hurdle most small businesses face,” said Steve deCastro president of Gorham Savings Bank. “Seeing the wide-range of applicants from small businesses statewide is truly inspiring. The excitement around the competition demonstrates the strength of entrepreneurship in Maine.”
New to LaunchPad last year, the Emerging Idea Award, won by Thomaston-based American Unagi, is a $10,000 grant that comes with an additional $10,000 worth of in-kind marketing, business development and public relations services. This year’s finalists, selected from LaunchPad applicants are: Farm Drop (Cape Elizabeth), Home Care Business Services (Falmouth), NavigatER (Cape Elizabeth), Pocket Parks (Winthrop), Sofia Fima (Lewiston). Each finalist will have the opportunity to submit a 60-second pitch video, which will be played at the event. The Emerging Idea Award winner will be announced just before the LaunchPad winner at the live event at Hannaford Hall.