Local entrepreneur Ford Reiche joins as an event judge in this year’s business competition
Gorham Savings Bank is now accepting applications for its seventh annual LaunchPad small business competition. In the competition, the premier event of its type in Maine, promising small businesses will compete for a $50,000 grant from the bank.
The application opens today Friday, March 1 and closes on Monday, April 1 at 5:00 p.m. Entrepreneurs, start-ups, and established companies can enter via a simple online application at gorhamsavings.bank/LaunchPad. Five finalists will be invited to compete at a live pitch event on Tuesday, June 4 at USM’s Hannaford Hall in Portland, at which the winner will be announced. In 2018 nearly 200 businesses applied to LaunchPad. Winners have received more than $250,000 in grant money from Gorham Savings Bank since 2013.
With digital solutions allowing Mainers to work remotely, independently, and efficiently, many non-financial barriers to entrepreneurship have been lifted. Gorham Savings Bank designed its LaunchPad competition to lift a remaining barrier – unencumbered funds – for one standout small business each year.
New to the judge’s panel at the live Launch Pad event is Ford Reiche, who has been involved with LaunchPad since its inception. He has a long history of entrepreneurial and non-profit activity in this community, and has been previously named both Maine’s Small Businessperson of the Year by United States Small Business Administration and Maine’s Large Company Business Leader of the Year by Mainebiz magazine. Reiche is widely known as the co-founder of Auburn-based Safe Handling Inc., a railroad shipping and logistics company. He helped grow the company to more than 100 employees located in Maine and Pennsylvania.
LaunchPad also has a new preliminary judge. Kristine Delano, managing director of marketplace strategy with NextShares Solutions, will review applications and help select five businesses to compete in the live competition.
As the LaunchPad competition has grown, many of its winners have grown too. Flowfold (2015) products can now be purchased in stores from Freeport to Japan. Kate McAleer, founder of Bixby Chocolate (2014), was one of 10 winners selected nationally by the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition for women entrepreneurs. And, last year’s winner North Spore, anticipates 50 percent revenue growth in 2019.
Part of the LaunchPad competition’s growth includes an additional $10,000 grant, and $10,000 of in-kind business and marketing-related services called the Emerging Idea Award. All LaunchPad applicants are considered for both prize levels, and no separate application is required. Cape Elizabeth-based NavigatER, a software platform designed to improve the patient experience, earned the distinction in 2018.
“Gorham Savings Bank strongly believes that Maine’s innovators and entrepreneurs are the driving force behind a successful and sustainable Maine economy,” said Steve deCastro, president and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank. “Every year the ideas we learn about and then see live on stage are so inspiring. We can’t wait to see what Maine’s small business owners have in store for the 2019 competition.”
Visit gorhamsavings.bank/LaunchPad to watch a recap of the 2018 competition.