The Great Lebanon County Pitch awards $8,000 in pitches from local businesses

The winners were announced in the Great Lebanon County Pitch, giving impetus to local business initiatives.

The competition, held Oct. 19 at the Chamber of Commerce of the Valley of Lebanon at 989 Quentin Road, Suite 1, awarded a total of $8,000 to local business plans and presentations.

Essentially, Haitos, an organic skincare company, won first prize and received $5,000.

Also on October 19, ’72, North Media, an advertising and marketing company, came in second and received $2,000. Homebase Gaming, a proposed travel or retail gaming experience center, became a fan favorite and received $1,000.

Continue reading: A great pitch can win thousands in prize money for your local startup

Left to right: Karen Groh, President and CEO of the Valley of Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, and Essentially Haitos’ Alicia Haitos and Karen Haitos with the $5,000 check. (provided by Karen Groh)

Five finalists submitted their business plans as part of the competition. A finalist was disqualified for not meeting the competition’s criteria.

“Each participant had to submit a business plan that included a number of things that we required. And so this business plan was submitted by September 30,” said Karen Groh, President and CEO of the Valley of Lebanon Chamber of Commerce and former Chair of the Board of Directors of the Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence. “Then this business plan, plus a column designed by the board for The Center, an evaluation column, … was sent to the judges in advance. The judges then evaluated 60% of each company’s grade or score before even stepping on the field for the things that were in the business plan.

“When they came in today, they had 60% of that score. The last 40% was based on the rubric of their presentation.”

A five-person panel of judges reviewed business plans for The Great Lebanon County Pitch competition. A judge was unable to attend the competition due to a family emergency.

Four business pitches were offered at the competition, including Control LTD (Limited), a company developing prototype medical syringes that dispense cannabis oil.

The judges present at the competition were Dan Beck, vice president of the Community First Fund; Thomas Shenk, senior vice president of Fulton Bank’s Commercial Banking Group; Hugh MacMaster, mentor at Score Lancaster-Lebanon; and Danielle Gundrum, owner of Red Couch Interiors LLC, which won first prize in last year’s competition.

“[The judges] are all involved in the business industry in some form,” Groh said. “So you come to the table with a lot of understanding for business plans and start-ups.”

“Before I took over the office of Chamber President, I ran my own company for 20 years,” continues Groh. “So I did graphic design and marketing. And you know, I understand something on the entrepreneurship side. And I’ve seen many entrepreneurs come and go over the years. Some succeeded, some failed. And the failures were always sad, but unfortunately you could see them coming because a good business model and a business plan are so important.”

After the business pitches, the judges had some time to think. The judges shared their top two companies, just in a different order.

“Back then, the conversations were only about nuances in your business plan or your presentation. So, without going into specifics, I think they just analyzed different parts of their business model in their discussion,” Groh said. “And then the winner was a clear winner.”

The judges announced the winners of the contest, who then posed with their cheques.

Karen Groh, President and CEO of the Valley of Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, left, and Jennifer Kristovensky of 72 North Media with the $2,000 check. (provided by Karen Groh)
Karen Groh, President and CEO of the Valley of Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, left, and Homebase Gaming’s Ramon Gonzalez with the $1,000 check. (provided by Karen Groh)

Looking ahead, Groh said, “We’ll definitely be doing The Pitch again next year. I think comments from the audience are that people are really enjoying watching it. They were fascinated by it and were happy about the commitment of the entrepreneurs.

“I know last year’s winners used all their funds. They had to document how they used them.”

Groh noted that last year’s first prize winner, Red Couch Interiors LLC, invested its award money into expanding its business offerings and services to its customers; that last year’s runner-up, Q’Hubo News, had continued success; and last year’s fan favourite, Your Spacial Place, will open its doors on the North Cornwall Commons in about two weeks.

“I think we want to continue to show Lebanon County entrepreneurs that Lebanon County is a great place to start a business, that we want to support them and not only give them some seed capital but the resources that the center provides educational workshops and mentoring,” Groh said.

“Well, I think one of the things that’s great about The Center is that it’s a safe place to come and say, ‘Hey, I have an idea. I’m not sure if it’s really good or not.’ And then we’re going to give them the tools to have that conversation in a private situation, in a private setting. And hopefully we can guide them on what those next steps might be,” Groh said. “We want Lebanon County entrepreneurs to have the greatest chance of success. And I think that’s the key to The Center for me, providing these support services.”

Investors in this year’s competition were Community First Fund, Fulton Bank and Score. There was no fee for participants to apply or participate.

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