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April 11, 2014

Chocolate maker Bixby & Co. wins $30K startup prize

Bixby & Co., an organic chocolate and nutrition bar maker, beat four other finalists to win the $30,000 LaunchPad Competition last night in a packed auditorium at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall in Portland.

Bixby and four other finalists vying for the award pitched their ideas at the live LaunchPad Competition, sponsored by Gorham Savings Bank to fund a business idea that might not otherwise take flight.

“We are ready to launch our Maine-made product into the national channel,” Bixby founder Kate McAleer said in her pitch to judges.

McAleer launched the Rockport-based company two years ago, at age 24, from her mother’s kitchen. The company recently moved from its 450-square-foot manufacturing facility in Belfast to 2,500 square feet in Rockland.

Two weeks ago she met with the largest U.S. foods distributor in the country, who she said told her he wanted to launch her products in all of his 15 national distribution centers. She also sells the Bixby bars, which come in six chocolate-combination flavors, in 40% of Whole Foods markets nationwide. The bars come in three vegan flavors. Others are kosher certified, non-genetically modified organism certified and use organic ingredients.

McAleer said she plans to use the prize money to buy equipment for more efficient refrigeration and bar-making methods and to buy melting tanks to assure continuous flow of chocolate.

Some 130 Maine entrepreneurs submitted an application to LaunchPad, and were judged by an independent panel that initially picked 12 semi-finalists. The public then cast more than 8,000 votes to narrow the field to the five finalists.

The other finalists were Chimani, which makes mobile apps and web tools for travelers; Double Blue Sports, which makes applications for athletes to share video analysis; Flowfold, which makes carrying gear from pre-consumer waste’ and Garbage to Garden, a curbside organics collection system.

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