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July 9, 2018
Biz Money

Pitch contest winnings to help North Spore Mushroom Co. scale up its operations

File Photo / Tim Greenway
File Photo / Tim Greenway
Eliah Thanhauser, left, and Matt McInnis, two of the co-founders of North Spore Mushroom Co. in Westbrook.

North Spore Mushroom Co. won $100,000 in the "Greenlight Maine" Season 3 entrepreneurial pitch contest.

It's the second of Maine's major pitch contests won by the Westbrook mushroom farm, which sells specialty mushroom growing kits.

North Spore won $50,000 from the Gorham Savings Bank Launchpad competition. It's the only company to win both pitch contests.

"This is an amazing windfall for us," said Eliah Thanhauser, North Spore's co-founder who represented the company in both pitching competitions. "This capital will go a long way in helping us bring mushroom growing to the masses. And this recognition is a great honor and a testament to how far we have come since our humble beginnings in a 500-square-foot garage in Westbrook. I worked hard on preparing for these pitches, but it is still a little hard to believe we won both."

In the "Greenlight Maine" pitch contest, North Spore beat out Forager and Zootillity.

In front of a live and loud audience at the Gracie Theater at Husson University in Bangor, the three Maine companies went head to head for the coveted $100,000 cash prize. North Spore, Zootility and Forager made their best pitch to a panel of three judges: Danielle Conway, dean of the University of Maine School of Law; Kathie Leonard, president and CEO of Auburn Manufacturing; and Mike Herrin, the COO of Emera Maine.

When the votes were cast North Spore came away with the cash by a margin of two to one.

Three college pals with a mushroom dream

Started in 2014 by three college friends, North Spore produces spawn, fresh mushrooms, medicinal mushroom products and kits to get people growing mushrooms at home. You can buy the kits on Amazon, as well as on the North Spore website, for $25 plus shipping.

While North Spore's fresh mushrooms are often featured at restaurants in Portland and at farmers' markets, North Spore said in a news release it plans to use its $100,000 prize to increase its spawn production (i.e., mushroom "seeds") and get more people growing mushrooms in the garden.

Specifically, the prize will go towards new equipment to make spawn production more efficient and to expand its facility to increase production capacity.

Along with its new ability to produce more spawn for mushroom farms and home gardens, North Spore said it will be rolling out high-quality educational videos as a resource for anyone interested in mushroom cultivation, including beginners attempting their first mushroom project and experienced farmers experimenting with a new mushroom species.

"North Spore has a vision for the future of home gardens and it includes fresh mushrooms in everyone's backyard," the company stated.

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