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March 1, 2019

Gorham Savings' LaunchPad application period launches

Courtesy / Gorham Savings Bank
Courtesy / Gorham Savings Bank
Last year, North Spore won the $50,000 Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad prize, beating four other finalists. Pictured here from left to right are: Judges Catherine Cloudman of Village Fertility and Steve Campbell of Pro-voke; North Spore's Matt McInnis, Eliah Thanhauser and Jon Carver; judge Chris Claudio of Winxnet; and Steve deCastro, president of Gorham Savings Bank. Gorham Savings announced this week that it is now taking applications for its seventh annual LaunchPad small business competition.

Applications for Gorham Savings Bank's seventh annual LaunchPad small business competition opened Friday, and two new judges have been added.

In the competition, small businesses compete for a $50,000 grant from the bank. Last year, nearly 200 businesses applied to LaunchPad. Winners have received more than $250,000 in grant money from Gorham Savings Bank since 2013.

The competition also includes the Emerging Idea Award, which comes with a $10,000 grant and $10,000 of in-kind business and marketing related services.

Last year's overall winner was Westbrook-based North Spore Mushroom Co., which anticipates 50% revenue growth in 2019, the release said.

All LaunchPad applicants are considered for both prize levels. Cape Elizabeth-based NavigatER, a software platform designed to improve the patient experience, won last year's Emerging Idea Award.

The purpose of the competition is to help small businesses raise the capital they need to launch a business, the bank said in a news release.

"With digital solutions allowing Mainers to work remotely, independently and efficiently, many non-financial barriers to entrepreneurship have been lifted," the release said. "Gorham Savings Bank designed its LaunchPad competition to lift a remaining barrier – unencumbered funds for one standout small business each year."

The application period closes at 5 p.m. Monday, April 1. Five finalists will compete at a live pitch event on Tuesday, June 4, at the University of Southern Maine's Hannaford Hall in Portland, at which the winner will be announced.

Entrepreneurs, startups and established companies can enter through an online application process at gorhamsavings.bank/LaunchPad.

The competition has also added two new panelists.

Ford Reiche has been added to this year's live event judge's panel. Reiche has been involved with LaunchPad since its inception and has a long history of entrepreneurial and non-profit activity in the community, the release said. In 2008, he was named Maine's Small Businessperson of the Year by Small Business Administration and Maine's Large Company Business Leader of the Year by Mainebiz.

Reiche is co-founder of Auburn-based Safe Handling Inc., a railroad shipping and logistics company. He helped grow the company to more than 100 employees located in Maine and Pennsylvania.

Kristine Delano, managing director of marketplace strategy with NextShares Solutions, has been named a preliminary judge. Delano will review applications and help select the five businesses to compete in the live competition.

As the LaunchPad competition has grown, many of its winners have grown too, the release said.

Flowfold, the 2015 winner, now sells its products in stores from Freeport to Japan. Kate McAleer, founder of Bixby Chocolate, the 2014 winner, was one of 10 winners selected nationally by the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition for women entrepreneurs.

"Gorham Savings Bank strongly believes that Maine's innovators and entrepreneurs are the driving force behind a successful and sustainable Maine economy," said Steve deCastro, president and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank. "Every year the ideas we learn about and then see live on stage are so inspiring. We can't wait to see what Maine's small business owners have in store for the 2019 competition."

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