REGION – “It’s all about your go-to-market strategy,” stated Jeffery Thomas, Executive Director of Lever Inc. and one of the judges for the 2022 WCEDP Business Plan Competition, in addressing the finalists before the winner was announced. When the judges convened after the conclusion of the last pitch, the winner’s go-to-market strategy was a key differentiator.
Thomas was one of the six judges that made up this year’s panel, alongside Bronna Zlochiver of the WCEDP Council, Sara Powell of the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, Meg Streeter of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development, Ed Sheldon of Key Bank, and Dena Moses of Vermont Weaving, last year’s Competition winner.
Dosa Kitchen, led by Leda Scheintaub and Nash Patel, worked with multiple mentors to refine their plan and pitch, which earned solid judge recognition and the grand prize in the competition. The judges were very impressed with the dedication and commitment put forth by all seven finalists: Kristen and Karen Nelson with West River Coffee barn in Londonderry, Christina Delsoldato and Matt Blake with Hayden Rowe Candle Company of South Londonderry, Nicole Couch-Diaz with Earthen Co. in Putney, Jake Checani and Ryan Foster with Home Grown Edible Landscaping & Nursery and Katheryn Stadler with Wicked Clean Grooming, both in Guilford, and Darren Mark with The Inventory of Brattleboro.
At the outset of the competition, 25 entrepreneurs submitted applications to compete. All applicants participated in one of four local Quick Pitch Events, hosted in June. In addition to the application and pitch participation, all businesses had to meet the competition criteria:
- The business must be located in Windham County
- Winners must be a legal entity to receive grant funding
- Able to demonstrate the potential to serve a gap in the market
- Projections demonstrate revenues greater than supporting owner salaries and two FTEs (full-time equivalent employee) within one year
- Reinvestment into business must be a priority for the first three years and reflected in projections
Eight semifinalists met these criteria and were provided access to online business planning software provided by the BDCC, and funded through WCEDP. Ultimately, seven finalists were advanced, based on their ability to produce a comprehensive written Business Plan.
All seven Business Plans were reviewed by a panel of judges who found a wide spread of viability among the finalist businesses. It was the Pitch and following Q&A that truly bolstered some finalists’ standing for the judges. It all came down to two main points for the judges: whether a plan to add two FTEs was clearly outlined, and the business’s go-to-market strategy.
Judges were unanimous in their decision to award the $20,000 grand prize to Scheintaub and Patel, who received a handmade wooden replica of a check, created courtesy of the Hatch Space.
The Pitch event was hosted at the Williamsville Hall and sponsored by the Brattleboro Reformer and Peak Radio.
Natty Hussey, BDCC’s Director of Business Acceleration, organized the competition; “This entire process is about accelerating every business that participates – from the application process, through the pitch events, and final judging. We want to help each entrepreneur move their business goals forward.”