Gorham Savings Bank will begin accepting applications for its sixth annual LaunchPad small business competition on March 15. In the competition, the premier event of its type in Maine, promising small businesses compete for a $50,000 grant prize from the Bank.
The entry period opens on Thursday, March 15 and closes on Sunday, April 15 at 5:00pm. Entrepreneurs, start-ups, and established companies can enter via an online application at GorhamSavings.Bank/LaunchPad - no formal business proposals or supporting documents are required. Five finalists will be invited to compete at a live pitch event on Tuesday, June 5 at USM's Hannaford Hall, at which the winner will be announced.
97 precent of companies in Maine are small businesses (defined as 500 or fewer employees), and of them, those with fewer than 100 employees contribute the largest share of jobs. In 2017, nearly 200 businesses applied to LaunchPad.
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.
As the LaunchPad competition has grown, so have past winners of the grant. Kate McAleer, founder of Bixby & Co., was one of 10 winners selected nationally by the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition for women entrepreneurs. Pika Energy was awarded $1 million in funding by the U.S. Department of Energy's Sunshot Initiative, Good To-Go secured major outdoot retailer REI as a customer, and Flowfold now has a product partnership with LL Bean.
Part of LaunchPad's growth includes an additional $10,000 grant, along with $10,000 of in-kind business services, called the Emerging Idea Award. Thomaston-based American Unagi, who harvests Maine glass eels to market size, took home the prize in 2017. Since winning the grant, American Unagi has gone on to win the short-pitch competition at Fish 2.0, a nationwide competition based in California connecting entrepreneurs and investors to create sustainable seafood businesses.
"We've seen incredible ideas from Maine's entrepreneurs over the last five years, from healthy food options to renewable energy storage to outdoor gear made from retired sail cloth, " said Chris Emmons, President and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank. "This sixth annual LaunchPad event gives us the opportunity to shine a bright light on Maine's entrepreneurial community and demonstrates Gorham Savings Bank believes in the future of Maine business."
Visit GorhamSavings.Bank/LaunchPad to watch a recap of the 2017 competition.