North Spore of Westbrook, a returning finalist from 2017, who produces specialty mushrooms, mushroom products and mushroom spawn took the top prize at Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad competition and its corresponding $50,000 cash prize. The company was chosen from among five finalists who pitched their small business concepts Tuesday night to a panel of independent judges in a packed USM Hannaford Hall.
North Spore is a company changing the way the world interacts with mushrooms through innovation and education. In the minds of judges Winxnet CEO and Co-founder Chris Claudio, Steve Campbell, founder and CEO, Pro-voke and Catherine Cloudman, an owner and CFO, Village Fertility Pharmacy the company rose to the top by explaining how it could double production capacity and greatly increase efficiency with an autoclave and autobagger. Two machines North Spore would purchase with the $50,000 grant. The judges were also impressed with the company’s year-over-year growth and strategic thinking.
The other four finalists, all of whom delivered impressive and well-received pitches, were American Roots, a family-run manufacturer that makes 100 percent American-made, Union-made customized apparel; Bangs Island Mussels, a family-owned and operated sustainable aquaculture company; Blue Ox Malthouse, a returning finalist from 2016, turns raw grain from local farms into malt used by craft breweries to differentiate their products; 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.
“Tonight, Gorham Savings Bank was able to help another Maine business reach the next stage,” said Steve deCastro, president, Gorham Savings Bank. “The competition was so competitive that I could envision each finalist rising to the top. Our judges made a tough decision and we are thrilled for North Spore.”
Gorham Savings Bank also honored one business in the Emerging Idea Award category. From a group of five finalists selected from LaunchPad applicants, Cape Elizabeth-based NavigatER, a software platform designed to improve the patient experience by removing barriers to communication and allowing patients to anticipate and understand their own clinical course, earned the distinction, plus a $10,000 cash prize and $10,000 worth of marketing, business development, and public relations services from iBec Creative, Creative Imaging Group, Grove Marketing, Philbrook PR and Pro-voke Strategy and Culture.
In addition, thanks to Gorham Saving Bank’s long-term partnership with Junior Achievement of Maine, middle school students from King, Memorial and Bonny Eagle participated in LaunchPad Junior for the first time through JA It’s my Business!™ entrepreneurial education program. During intermission at the event, a video pitch from each class was shown and the student representatives from each school were invited on stage to answer several questions about their idea and what they learned through the program. The students’ hard work was rewarded with a $1,000 donation from Gorham Savings Bank to each school.