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Updated: September 29, 2023

LaunchPad lineup unveiled for October business-pitch contest

Contest on stage File photo / Tim Greenway Melissa LaCasse, co-founder and CEO of Tanbark Molded Fiber Products, delivering her winning pitch to judges and a live audience at last year's Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad event in Portland.

Five small businesses, from an online book club to a language learning startup, will duke it out on stage this October for a chance to win $50,000 in the Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad business-pitch contest.

Chosen from applicants from all over the state, the finalists were named Friday morning for the Oct. 24 event. The contest, formerly held every spring, is scheduled to take place on Oct. 24 in Portland, at the University of New England’s Innovation Hall.

This year's finalists are:

  • Amanda Lacy, of Bijou Build in Camden
  • Anna Turcotte, Joseph Turcotte, Sam Stewart and Dana Stewart, of Bonsie Skin to Skin Babywear in Brunswick
  • Anna Ford and Ian Campbell, of Camden-based Bookclubs, a returning finalist from 2022
  • Michael Odokara-Okigbo of NKENNE, an African-language learning app that was last year’s Emerging Business Award winner, and
  • Cooper Van Vranken, Carles Castro Muniain and Jack Carroll, of Ocean Data Network in Portland.

Following the live pitches on stage, the judges will engage with the finalists, ask questions, and ultimately select one of the five entrepreneurs to receive the grand prize.

This year’s judges are John Burns, the former managing director of the Maine Venture Fund now working as director of engagement for the University of Maine; Kristine Delano, a strategic business advisor and host of the WE Talk Careers podcast; and Bixby Chocolate founder Kate McAleer, who was honored as a Mainebiz Woman to Watch in 2022.

Outside the main competition, five additional startups were chosen to submit 60-second pitch videos to compete for the bank’s Emerging Business Award. 

The winner of that category will earn a $10,000 grant from Gorham Savings 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 Oct. 24 live event, just before the $50,000 grand prize winner.

Competing for the Emerging Business Award will be Edward Smith and Eric Fitz of Ample Energy in Cumberland;  Lisa Jones of Black Travel Maine in Waterville; Axel Christensen of  KNCamp in Richmond; Helen Cohen, Jeff Borland, Aidan Blum Levine and Theo King of ReachMyTeach in Portland, winner of last year's $25,000 Top Gun prize; and Nick Planson of Shred Electric in New Gloucester.

More information

Free registration for the Oct. 24 Gotham Savings Bank competition is already open online.

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