GSB’s LaunchPad Opens March 1

Kate McAleer (founder, Bixby & Co.), Becky McKinnell (founder, iBec Creative) and Rich Peterson (president, MaineHealth and CEO, Maine Medical Center) will help judge this year’s competition

Gorham Savings Bank will begin accepting applications on March 1 for its eighth 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 Sunday, March 1 and closes on Wednesday, April 1 at 5:00pm. Entrepreneurs, start-ups, and established companies can enter via a simple online application at Five finalists will be invited to compete at a live pitch event on Tuesday, June 2 at USM’s Hannaford Hall in Portland, at which time the winner will be announced.

The application process is easier than ever thanks to new features added for 2020. Businesses can now:

  • Preview application questions before March 1
  • Create an account, save a draft application, and return to finish it later
  • Watch videos of preliminary judges discussing the competition’s criteria and what they look for on an application
  • Access and update a previous submission if they applied to LaunchPad in 2019

More than 550 participants spanning 100 plus Maine cities and towns from over 25 industries have applied to LaunchPad since 2013. Winners have received more than $300,000 in no-strings-attached grant money from Gorham Savings Bank.

“Over the past eight years, we’ve witnessed some remarkable things happen to our past LaunchPad winners and finalists–awards, recognition, growth and some great successes. It’s always exciting for us at the Bank to be a small part of their stories,” said Steve deCastro, president and CEO, Gorham Savings Bank. “As a community bank we strive to be a force for good and each year LaunchPad affords us the opportunity to give another promising Maine business a hand up.”

New to the judge’s panel at LaunchPad’s live event is Kate McAleer, founder of Bixby & Co., who previously served as a preliminary judge, and won LaunchPad as a contestant in 2014. Kate has gone on to achieve great things since her LaunchPad debut, including revitalizing manufacturing in Rockland, landing large contracts with LL Bean, Hannaford, Whole Foods, Walmart, and TJ Maxx, and being named a National Confectioners Association Future Leader. Bixby was selected one of 10 winners nationally by the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition for women entrepreneurs.

LaunchPad’s new preliminary judges, Becky McKinnell, founder of iBec Creative and Richard Petersen, president of MaineHealth and CEO of Maine Medical Center, will review applications and help select five businesses to compete in the live competition.

McKinnell is considered a thought leader among Maine’s entrepreneurs. She founded an e-commerce conference held annually in Portland and frequently provides best practices on entrepreneurship at business community events. Her company made Mainebiz’s list of largest marketing firms by revenue in 2019.

Prior to Petersen’s appointment at MaineHealth, he was president and CEO of Maine Medical Center. He currently serves as a board member on The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges and The John T. Gorman Foundation.

The LaunchPad competition also includes an additional $10,000 grant, and $10,000 of in-kind business and marketing-related services from Creative Imagine Group, Grove Marketing, iBec Creative, Philbrook Public Relations, and pro-voke called the Emerging Business Award. Five additional finalists are selected to submit 60-second pitch videos to be shown at the live event. All LaunchPad applicants are considered for both prize levels, and no separate application is required. MyBodyModel, a croquis app that makes custom fashion sketch templates with realistic body measurements, earned the distinction in 2019.

Visit to watch a recap of the 2019 competition.