For some fledgling entrepreneurs, last Friday was not just another day, but it was another dollar.
The fall edition of the Perdue School of Business Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery took place on Friday, Oct. 25.
First place and a $50,000 prize went to 360VR, a company specializing in creating digital tours and floor plans started by two University of Delaware seniors.
Three other winners also received a $15,000 prize each: Overwatch Golf, a Baltimore-based company that offers golf course photo and video work; Linnel Luxury Child Care, a proposed childcare center with plans to offer comprehensive care and Minds in Motion Children's Museum, a proposed museum in Salisbury aimed at teaching young minds about Eastern Shore history and industry.
This biannual business competition is open to any mid-Atlantic business startup.
During this event, entrepreneurs present their business models to a panel of judges, who in turn divvy out $200,000 worth of grants.
The style of the hatchery competition is similar to that of the student competition, but contestants do not need to be affiliated with Salisbury University.
“The state of Maryland and Ratcliffe Foundation heard about what we we’re doing with our student competition, and they came and gave us an opportunity to pitch to them what we can do for the greater community," said Shore Hatchery Director William Burke on the foundation's website. "Then they gave us $1 million to distribute over five years to entrepreneurs.”
This competition breaks the idea that “nothing in life is free” in that while winners are expected to report their future revenues, they are not expected to pay interest or give up shares of stock to the Ratcliffe Foundation.
A young business receiving no-strings-attached funding is a rare and potentially vital opportunity.
“I didn’t know that competitions like this existed. I didn’t really think that people would give you money without you paying them … I think it’s an incredibly generous thing that they do. I think it speaks to the nature of the school and the organization that put this together,” said Seth Ainsworth, a contestant representing Overwatch Golf.
The Ratcliffe Foundation is indeed being generous. The idea behind this initiative is to support local businesses that could bring jobs to the Mid-Atlantic region. The initiative has been successful thus far, with investments generating revenue upwards of $4 million over the past five years.
Marianne McGinley, founder and CEO of LOKALPHOTO, a service that brings working photographers and prospective clients together, believes that the contest shows the true spirit of modern entrepreneurship.
“This competition is about showcasing the innovation coming out of Maryland and the economic benefits that could be achieved if these companies are successful,” McGinley said.
Entrepreneurship can come from anywhere, and the Ratcliffe foundation helps to make these dreams become reality.
A wide variety of contestants and ideas were represented at the competition, from the Lively Susan, Quenetics' improvement on the traditionally known lazy Susan, to Overwatch Golf’s drone tour creation service golf caddie.
Business ideas were shown to come from all walks of life.
“I was a very busy mom feeling behind the 8-ball when it came to booking photo sessions for my family, and I realized there was a huge opportunity to bring photographers together into a centralized platform,” said McGinley when asked how she started as an entrepreneur.
Events like these are also important because they promote communication between local businesses and help to form an entrepreneurial community.
The importance of this communication was captured by Quenetics president Greg Brown.
When asked what he thought this competition was about, Brown kept it short.
“It's about creating ideas and fulfilling them. I think people have unique concepts … and this gives us the ability to present that,” he said.
An entrepreneurial community is also important in that it gives business leaders an opportunity to collaborate.
Collaboration with an experienced business can be essential to a young business's growth, and competitions like this one give small businesses the opportunity to make necessary connections.
“I’ve been meeting with other companies that have been providing me guidance regarding their growth and how they did it,” said McGinley.
By OWEN MILLER
Featured image: Owen Miller images.