LUDINGTON — When Andy Thomas won the inaugural Momentum Business Plan Competition last year, it helped propel the growth of his startup business faster than he expected.
While the $50,000 in cash provided a boost, the resources that came along with that funding proved just as important, said Thomas, the founder of Starving Artist Brewing Co. LLC, a production-only nanobrewery in Scottville, just east of Ludington.
“It launched us a couple years into the future,” Thomas told MiBiz. “With an adrenaline shot like that, both financially and on the mentor side with a group of judges that work as a makeshift board of directors, I’m not sure which is more valuable.”
Starving Artist brewed nearly 91 barrels of beer last year after launching in July, and signed with Grand Rapids-based Alliance Beverage Distributing to move beer throughout the lakeshore, Grand Rapids area and in Lansing.
“We were able to launch a much larger portion of the state with distribution than we would have been off the bat,” Thomas said.
Building off the success of Starving Artist, the organizers of the Momentum Business Plan Competition look to double the number of entries this year, up from 10 in 2015, said Tom Hinman, the talent and entrepreneurship coordinator at the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, which coordinates the event.
Entrepreneurs have until July 31 to apply to the competition, which is backed by funding from the Pennies from Heaven Foundation in Ludington.
As with the inaugural event last year, the 2016 Momentum Business Plan Competition is open to small businesses and nonprofit ventures with a viable idea for a business or invention, plus existing businesses or organizations with less than $100,000 in annual sales or revenue. The winner must establish or relocate the business to Mason County.
Like Thomas’ company, the winner will receive not just capital but also additional support through mentorship and business coaching from CEOs of area businesses.
“There is a lot of entrepreneurism in this area,” Hinman said. “West Michigan is a great breeding ground for entrepreneurism, and we want to help cultivate that up into Mason County.”
A panel of judges will select five finalists, who will then have the opportunity to refine their business plan and move on to pitch their ideas publicly in September. The winner will receive the $50,000 in increments of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000, with payments coming as they make progress on their business plan.
The competition “is all about encouraging entrepreneurs to create and thrive,” Kathy Maclean, president and CEO of the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “Our goal is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit and give business visionaries the tools to succeed while showcasing how small towns like Ludington are perfect places to implement a new business.”
In addition to Starving Artist, three of the four other finalists in the 2015 competition went on to form or expand a small business.
• Makers Market of Ludington, a shared workplace for metal, ceramic and wood crafters, opened in March in downtown Ludington.
• Stuart Family Organics LLC, an organic wheat farm and bakery that sells products primarily at farmers’ markets, plans to open a store in downtown Ludington this fall to sell organic baked goods.
• All Occasions Event Decorating by WCT, an event planning and decorating company, credits the competition for having increased awareness of the business, according to its owners.