Need $50,000 to get your new business off the ground or to the next level—and want to do it in Mason County? That’s what the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce is banking on as it launches its fourth annual Momentum Business Plan Competition, offering $50,000 to one entrepreneur with a viable startup idea or business with less than $100,000 in sales annually. The winner will be selected at a public pitch night in front of judges and a live audience September 21 at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.
Participants can also compete for other prize money besides the top prize. In addition to a $5,000 second prize for the main competition, a new Momentum 5×5 Night will award $5,000 to one individual plus an automatic spot as a Top 10 finalist in the Momentum Competition.
“The Momentum Business Plan Competition gives people a leg up to launch their business or get it to the next phase, and in the business-friendly environment of Mason County,” says Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Kathy Maclean. “The Ludington area has a robust entrepreneurial community. We want to grow that by giving a boost to startups and entrepreneurs to fulfill their business dreams here. And we’re sweetening the pot this year with an additional prize opportunity.”
Interested and qualified applicants can register at momentumstartup.org and upload a business plan according to the specified format by July 31. Eligibility requirements and rules can be found on the contest website. Applicants needing assistance in creating a business plan can book a free appointment with a mentor from the Ludington Chapter of SCORE either online or by calling 231-845-0324.
On August 3, a selection committee will shortlist applicants to ten candidates. Five finalists will be selected August 21 who will pitch their ideas in person before the Momentum board and a public audience September 21, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts (107 S. Harrison St.) Past Momentum contestants are allowed to reapply.
New Momentum 5×5 Night Awards $5,000
While the large cash purse is $50,000, contestants also could win smaller prizes. A second place prize of $5,000 is awarded by the Mason County Growth Alliance for the second year. New this year is a Momentum 5X5 Night hosted and sponsored by Epworth Assembly and Epworth Church Association August 15 at Epworth Heights Auditorium (1161 N. Lakeshore Dr., Ludington). Five applicants will be selected to pitch their business idea for five minutes each in front of four judges and a live audience serving as a fifth judge in the event of a tie. One winner will take home $5,000, in addition to receiving an automatic spot in the Momentum Competition’s Top 10, and all contestants can practice their pitches to prepare them for Momentum.
Investors also may be in the audience, giving entrepreneurs additional exposure for their business ideas. Individuals can apply to both the Momentum Competition and 5×5 Night, or just 5×5 Night. More information is at momentumstartup.org.
“More entrepreneurs are choosing Mason County to set up their small businesses,” says Tom Hinman, talent and entrepreneur development coordinator for the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The reasonable cost of living, friendly business climate, and incredible quality of life draw people to move here. We want to foster that environment through this contest, which also is a great fit with the Chamber’s ‘Live Ludington’ relocation emphasis.”
2017 Momentum Winner Thriving
Last year’s Momentum Competition winner was sisters Wendy Morrow and Cheryl Freeman of Ludington and their floral and events business, All Occasions Events and Floral at 110 N. James St. in downtown Ludington. Winning the contest not long after moving into their storefront, the sisters applied their 2017 Momentum grant to purchasing equipment for the floral side of the business, including walk-in and display coolers. They also expanded their product line, piloting an automated floral delivery service for businesses to receive fresh flowers weekly or monthly, and a personal shopper service for individuals. On the event side, they are running a robust business with more than 25 weddings booked for 2018. With the grant, they have been able to purchase specialty rental items such as wooden Chiavari chairs, a unique circular arch, plus dishes to add to their collection of antique dinnerware.
“People think $50,000 is the prize—but it’s just as important to have the mentors,” says Cheryl Freeman about receiving mentoring from the judges as part of winning the competition. “The money certainly catapulted our plans forward, but we also have access to these incredible business minds to help us get there.”
Regarding next steps, Wendy Morrow says, “We’re focused on working with our mentors to develop the business behind the business to make sure our structure stays strong. We essentially are running two businesses under the same roof. Before adding more to our repertoire, we want to fine-tune what we have to ensure overall success. It has been an amazing year, and we anticipate only more growth as we go along.”
Competition Background/”Live Ludington”
The Momentum Business Plan Competition was spearheaded in 2015 by the Pennies from Heaven Foundation to foster and grow the entrepreneurial spirit of Mason County where its founder, John Wilson, made his business mark. The competition’s board of directors is comprised of Mason County CEOs and business leaders.
The Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce administers the program to encourage new businesses to come to Mason County through the competition and to demonstrate that the region is a ripe environment for small businesses to grow and thrive. A case in point—65 percent of the 500 Chamber members are small businesses with less than five employees.
The Chamber recently kicked off a “Live Ludington” relocation campaign to articulate Ludington’s selling points as a livable community. Stories about entrepreneurs who have made Mason County home can be found at ludington.org/liveludington.
Press release by Blue Blaze PR for the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce