Tanbark, a packaging manufacturer that creates custom, sustainable, recyclable, and often compostable molded fiber packaging using Maine trees and Maine labor, was named the 2022 winner of Gorham Savings Bank’s annual LaunchPad small business competition and earned its corresponding $50,000 no-strings-attached LaunchPad Grant.
The company was chosen from among five finalists who pitched Tuesday afternoon to an independent panel of judges as well as family, friends, and supporters watching in-person at Innovation Hall on UNE’s Portland Campus and online via livestream.
Melissa LaCasse, Tanbark’s CEO, impressed the judges with a detailed, succinct pitch that touched on the company’s market strategy, scalability, and intellectual property. She also explained how Tanbark fills a much-needed void in the packaging industry with a sustainable solution that utilizes Maine’s natural resources (wood fiber) and labor. The other four finalists, all of whom delivered impressive and well-received pitches, were Bookclubs, True Fin, Maine Food Group, and Studio e Flett Design.
Tanbark provides lower-volume, higher-value, custom solutions for companies looking to replace plastic or onshore their supply chain. The company does so by leveraging equipment that utilizes automation, robotics, and a small footprint, enabling smaller runs and the ability to scale with customers as they grow.
In an unexpected twist, GSB CEO Steve deCastro announced that an anonymous donor had contributed $1,000 to the competition. The donation inspired the bank to reallocate funds it planned to spend on LaunchPad’s cancelled social hour, and instead pool the money to award a $5,000 surprise grant. Portland-based sustainable seafood distributor True Fin (formerly Gulf of Maine Sashimi) earned that cash prize.
Additionally, deCastro announced an added perk for the $50,000 finalists. The Roux Institute at Northeastern will grant them access to four of its curated, invite-only events to network and build connections with investors, founders, and key players in Maine’s startup ecosystem.
Gorham Savings Bank also honored an entrepreneur in the Emerging Business Award category. From a group of an additional five finalists selected from LaunchPad applicants, Portland-based African language learning app NKENNE earned the distinction, along with a $10,000 grant from GSB and $10,000 worth of in-kind marketing, business development, and public relations services from Creative Imaging Group, Grove Marketing, iBec Creative, Nu-Yar, and Philbrook PR. The other four Emerging finalists, who showcased pre-recorded video pitches, were Eskuad, FibrWorks, Ocean Farm Supply and pumpspotting.
“The quality of the pitches this year was phenomenal. It was a privilege to watch,” said Steve deCastro, president and CEO, Gorham Savings Bank. “It’s encouraging to see that innovation culture continues to thrive in Maine. I have no doubt that all the LaunchPad finalists will be successful entrepreneurs.”
A special thanks to this year’s event judges: Chris Claudio (founder and CEO, Growth Axis), Catherine Cloudman (president and CEO, CHC Advisors LLC), Kristine Delano (board member, Women in ETFs and host, WE Talk Careers podcast). Business consultant Michelle Neujahr of Nu-Yar emceed the event again this year.
Watch the livestream at gorhamsavings.bank/launchpad.