GSB's LaunchPad 2023 Finalists Announced

The 10th Annual Competition saw a historic moment as the African Language Learning App, NKENNE, became the first-ever business to be named a finalist after winning the Emerging Business Award in 2022.

GSB has selected five finalists for its annual LaunchPad small business competition. Out of a vibrant and diverse mix of small businesses across the state, five entrepreneurs have emerged, earning their ticket to the next round: a thrilling live pitch competition set for Tuesday, October 24, at the Innovation Hall of the University of New England in Portland.

The 2023 LaunchPad $50,000 finalists include:

  • Bijou Build, Camden, Amanda Lacy – Designed an ingenious play structure that maximizes space, offering limitless fun for kids and adults. Crafted by a mom of three and toy industry pro, it’s modular, customizable, and portable. Bijou is a sustainable, enduring investment for your family and the planet.
  • Bonsie Skin to Skin Babywear, Brunswick, Anna Turcotte, Joseph Turcotte, Sam Stewart, and Dana Stewart – Dedicated to fostering bonding, Bonsie, aims to make skin-to-skin time convenient and accessible whenever your baby seeks closeness. By connecting with your little one, you nurture their ability to connect with others, fostering a loving, empathetic, and lifelong bond.
  • Bookclubs (2022 Finalist), Camden, Anna Ford, and Ian Campbell – Readers Wanted! Bookclubs makes organizing a book club simple with tools to build community, choose books, schedule meetings, and discover what to read next. Walk away from that tangle of emails so your book club can focus on reading and being together.
  • NKENNE (2022 Emerging Business Award Winner), Portland, Michael Odokara-Okigbo – Pioneered a revolution in African language learning. Fueled by passion and driven by innovative technology, NKENNE was crafted to simplify the process of learning African languages. NKENNE is the first Emerging Business Award winner to be named a $50,000 LaunchPad finalist.
  • Ocean Data Network, Portland, Cooper Van Vranken, Carles Castro Muniain, and Jack Carroll – Provides a cost-effective solution for collecting crucial ocean data in under-monitored shelf regions. By equipping commercial fishing gear with sensors, ODN measures temperature, salinity, and other vital variables in real-time, delivering comprehensive ocean data streams, including sea-surface and meteorological information.

Following the live pitches, the judges—former head of the Maine Venture Fund, John Burns; Kristine Delano, a strategic business advisor and host of the WE Talk Careers podcast; and Kate McAleer of Bixby Chocolate—will engage with the finalists, asking questions, and ultimately selecting one of the five entrepreneurs to receive the grand prize: a $50,000 grant from GSB.

In addition to the five $50,000 LaunchPad finalists, five additional startups were chosen to submit 60-second pitch videos to compete for the Bank’s Emerging Business Award. The winner will earn a $10,000 grant from GSB plus $10,000 worth of in-kind business and marketing services from Creative Imaging Group, Grove Marketing, iBec Creative, Nu-Yar, and Philbrook PR. The Emerging Business Award winner will be announced at the October 24 live event, just before the $50,000 winner.

The 2023 Emerging Business Award finalists include:

  • Amply Energy, Cumberland, Edward Smith, and Eric Fitz – Enables contractors to swiftly generate improved heat pump proposals for homeowners, expediting the adoption of clean, efficient, and budget-friendly HVAC solutions.
  • Black Travel Maine, Waterville, Lisa Jones – Aims to introduce BIPOC travelers to the beauty, culture, delectable cuisine, and warm hospitality of Maine.
  • KNCamp, Richmond, Axel Christensen – Small, durable, and lightweight campers that are easier to tow with innovative layouts and popup roofs that make the most of a tiny space.
  • ReachMyTeach, Portland, Helen Cohen, Jeff Borland, Aidan Blum Levine, and Theo King – Fosters a strong connection between school and home, facilitating student success with accessible, translated, and secure communication.
  • Shred Electric, New Gloucester, Nick Planson – Electrifies marine operations, replacing noisy gasoline generators and pumps with cleaner and quieter alternatives.

RSVP to save your seat and support the local small business community at LaunchPad.