Lightning Strikes Twice for InvestMaryland Challenge Rural Entrepreneurs

When the team at Luminal of Frederick, Md., stepped up to the stage recently to receive the grand prize in InvestMaryland Challenge’s cybersecurity category, they not only received recognition that their work was important to the future of cybersecurity, but also became part of a recent trend for rural entrepreneurs. For the second consecutive year, the business selected to receive the Rural Entrepreneurship Award went on to take the grand prize for their category. Last year’s winner was i-lighting of North East, Md.

The Rural Entrepreneurship Award is a $15,000 grant sponsored by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC) of Easton and the Rural Maryland Council (RMC) of Annapolis. In all, Luminal received a $100,000 grand prize grant from InvestMaryland Challenge, free exhibit space from the Federal Business Council during the CyberMaryland Conference in fall 2014, and in-kind services.

According to co-founder Andrew Wright, the prize money will be applied to the business’ most valuable asset – its team. “It gives us more dry powder for hiring,” he says. “The number one expense for most tech startups is salaries. We will be adding more smart, talented people to help us fundamentally change how cloud-based applications are managed and secured,” Wright adds.

Luminalawrd

From left are: Matt Brinkman, co-founder, Luminal; Gov. Martin O’Malley; Dominic Zippilli, co-founder, Luminal; Josh Stella, co-founder and CEO of Luminal; Andrew Wright, co-founder, Luminal; and Dominick E. Murray, Maryland’s Secretary of Business & Economic Development (DBED).

Although cybersecurity is a frequent description for Luminal’s work, in many ways it is a misnomer. As Wright explains, most cybersecurity solutions must first identify threats or swing into action after a breach has occurred. Luminal’s solution will change the way applications work in the cloud to make security inherent.

“Current security solutions tend to be restrictive and slow down operations by adding layers of security, such as antivirus and firewalls, to applications. But cybersecurity is in a state of failure and with high profile breaches occurring on a weekly basis, we’ve reached a watershed moment in computing. In order to develop effective solutions we need to think about the problem in different ways than we have been,” Wright adds.

Luminal’s product is currently in beta testing with customers and they expect it to be generally commercially available by the end of 2014. Their initial target markets include those in commercial and government sectors using Amazon Web Services for their applications. Because Luminal will be used to deploy and manage cloud-based applications, the company sees developer/operators, or DevOps, professionals as the users of their solution.

For RMC and ESEC Luminal’s accolades only serve to confirm what they already know: rural entrepreneurs are making significant contributions in Maryland. “For an advocate of rural Marylanders it is important for us to shine the light on the important role rural Maryland has in the overall health of the state,” says Charlotte Davis, executive director of the Rural Maryland Council.

Her cohort agrees. “To see rural entrepreneurs gain the recognition they deserve and to take their place in the economic development of the state is particularly gratifying. I guess lightning can strike twice,” says Mike Thielke, ESEC’s executive director, in reference to InvestMaryland’s nod to rural entrepreneurs.

Founded in 1994, the RMC operates under the direction of a 40-member executive board in a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory manner. It serves as the voice of rural Maryland, advocating for and helping rural communities and businesses across the state to flourish and to gain equity to its suburban and urban counterparts. The vision for RMC is the ultimate realization that citizens living in rural communities are achieving success in education and employment, have access to affordable, quality health care and other vital public services, and live in an environment where natural and cultural resources are being sustained for future generations.

Founded in 2006, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC) works to develop and enhance an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ESEC provides training; services and programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by creating greater access to capital, and offering programs that develop entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Included are ShoreVenture, a comprehensive 10-week entrepreneur-training program, annual business plan and student plan competitions, and an annual entrepreneur conference. In 2012, ESEC launched “hotDesks,” providing co-working spaces for independent professionals.

 

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Maryland 3.0: Eastern Shore Business Plan Contest offers $35,000

The process of writing a business plan is much more than taking ideas and placing them in a document. A business plan is as much of a commitment to action as it is a strategy. Regional entrepreneurs with startup businesses and existing businesses can also use this process as a way to connect with much needed resources thanks to the second annual Eastern Shore business plan contest.

During this year’s competition not only will the first place winner automatically advance to the semi-final round of the 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge business competition in pursuit of $100,000 cash prize, but also all three winners may enter free of charge (i.e. application fee waived) into the 2014 MassChallenge competition. MassChallenge is a the four-month accelerator program which provides world-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, media and more along with $1million in cash awards ($10 million plus in-kind support).

Applicants can register online at shorebizplan.com. Click on “Eastern Shore Business Plan Competition,” then “Sign Up” for an account in the right margin. Individuals or teams interested in the competition must confirm eligibility, complete registration, and submit all material by Monday, October 28.

The Eastern Shore business plan contest is sponsored by founding partners: Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center and Maryland Capital Enterprise; contributing partners: InvestMaryland Challenge; MassChallenge; and Rural Maryland Council. For more information contact, Mike Thielke, executive director, Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC), at mike@ventureahead.org.

The Eastern Shore business plan competition is open to startups and existing business owners who want to start a new business or expand an existing one. Individual or group applicants are accepted. All finalists or winners must agree that they will use the prize winnings to establish or continue business operations in Maryland Eastern Shore counties.

A maximum of five individuals or teams will be selected to advance to a final round of competition and will present in front of a panel of judges during a session of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. The judges will select first, second, and third place winners who will be announced during the Business Expo networking reception. The top three winners will receive a total of $35,000 in cash and services: $20,000 for first place; $10,000 for second place; and $5,000 for third place.

Founded in 2006, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center works to develop and enhance an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ESEC provides training; services and programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by creating greater access to capital, and offering programs that develop entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Included are NewVenture, a comprehensive 10-week entrepreneur-training program, annual business plan and student plan competitions, and an annual entrepreneur conference.

In 2012, ESEC launched “hotDesks,” providing co-working spaces for independent professionals. The first location opened in Salisbury with a second location to be announced on the Eastern Shore. For more information on the business plan competition or ESEC, call (410) 770-9330, ventureahead.org or connect with ESEC at facebook.com/ESECventureahead.

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Maryland 3.0: Second Eastern Shore Business Plan Contest to Award $35,000

The opportunity to win start up money and services to take a good business idea from dream to reality is enough incentive for many entrepreneurs to compete in a business plan contest. That didn’t stop two area non-profit organizations from upping the ante for the second annual Eastern Shore business plan contest.

This year not only will the first place winner automatically advance to the semi-final round of the 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge business competition in pursuit of $100,000 cash prize, but also all three winners may enter free of charge (i.e. application fee waived) into the 2014 MassChallenge competition. MassChallenge is a the four-month accelerator program which provides world-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, media and more along with $1million in cash awards ($10 million plus in-kind support).

Applicants can register online at shorebizplan.com. Click on “Eastern Shore Business Plan Competition, then “Sign Up” for an account in the right margin. Individuals or teams interested in the competition must confirm eligibility, complete registration, and submit all material by Monday, October 28.

The Eastern Shore business plan contest is sponsored by founding partners: Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center and Maryland Capital Enterprise; contributing partners: InvestMaryland Challenge; MassChallenge; and Rural Maryland Council. For more information contact, Mike Thielke, executive director, Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC), at mike@ventureahead.org.

“The inaugural competition helped us announce to the rest of Maryland that the Eastern Shore is not only a viable area for start ups and entrepreneurs, but also a desirable area,” says Mike Thielke, of ESEC. “The quantity and quality of our applicants and their successes since the competition has been tremendous,” he adds.

Arthur S. Lazerow, board chairman of last year’s first place winner Triea Systems, LLC of Bethesda, Md., concurs. “It is amazing how valuable the business plan contest (Eastern Shore) proved to be,” says Lazerow. “Sure the public acclaim, the prize money and in-kind services are nice. But the benefits go on and on from the people you meet in the entrepreneurship community to other businesses that can provide support, people you meet who can mentor you, and the bankers, insurance companies, and other professionals. It’s like a chain reaction, and it pays dividends,” he adds.

Triea Systems most recent accolades was taking first place and two, third place finishes in the 2013 Sustainable Business Plan Competition, presented by the William James Foundation. Triea Systems was competing against 520 companies.

Contest rules

The Eastern Shore business plan competition is open to startups and existing business owners who want to start a new business or expand an existing one. Individual or group applicants are accepted. All finalists or winners must agree that they will use the prize winnings to establish or continue business operations in Maryland Eastern Shore counties.

A maximum of five individuals or teams will be selected to advance to a final round of competition and will present in front of a panel of judges during a session of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. The judges will select first, second, and third place winners who will be announced during the Business Expo networking reception. The top three winners will receive a total of $35,000 in cash and services: $20,000 for first place; $10,000 for second place; and $5,000 for third place.

Founded in 2006, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center works to develop and enhance an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ESEC provides training; services and programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by creating greater access to capital, and offering programs that develop entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Included are NewVenture, a comprehensive 10-week entrepreneur-training program, annual business plan and student plan competitions, and an annual entrepreneur conference.

In 2012, ESEC launched “hotDesks,” providing co-working spaces for independent professionals. The first location opened in Salisbury with a second location to be announced on the Eastern Shore. For more information on the business plan competition or ESEC, call (410) 770-9330, ventureahead.org or connect with ESEC atfacebook.com/ESECventureahead.

 

Maryland 3.0: 2013 Maryland Rural Action Assembly to Define Priorities

Maryland’s economic development statistics are impressive. Maryland tops the list for 10 states ranked for entrepreneurship and innovation, and is a top 10 state for growth and economic performance. But where does the state stand in terms of the standard of living affecting nearly one-third of its citizens who live in rural communities? Not so impressive.

Rural Maryland is plagued with higher rates of poverty and unemployment and lower rates of income and educational attainment than its metropolitan counterparts. Rural Marylanders consistently lack access to quality and affordable health care services and are faced with unique challenges such as a decaying infrastructure and the loss of rural working lands.

The challenges facing rural Maryland are numerous and complex, but not insurmountable, says three organizations that are coming together to present the 2013 Rural Action Assembly. The conference is set for October 17 and 18, and invites all stakeholders to unite to develop a legislative agenda for the 2014 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session.

Hosted by the Maryland State Office of Rural Health, Maryland Rural Health Association, and Rural Maryland Council, the event will be held at Ripken Stadium, 873 Long Drive, Aberdeen. The conference fee is $280. for the full conference, which includes five meals and all the sessions. Space is limited. Advance registration is suggested. Walk-ins are welcome.

A limited number of group-rate rooms are available at the Courtyard Aberdeen at Ripken Stadium, adjacent to the stadium. To register visit www.ruralactionassembly.org. For more information, call (410) 841-5772 or email rmc.mda@maryland.gov.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for all the stakeholders to come together – citizens, state and local government leaders, nonprofits, businesses – everyone who has a vested interested in improving life in rural Maryland,” says Charlotte Davis, executive director, Rural Maryland Council (RMC). “We need to work together, and to move forward together with one voice and one agenda to bring to our legislators. This conference is an important instrument to make that happen,” she adds.

Conference highlights include:

“The Looming Crisis of Full Employment,” featuring Mark Lautman, founding director, Community Economics Laboratory, and author of “When the Boomers Bail: How Demographics Will Sort Communities into Winners and Losers.”
Closing Plenary: “Creating a Unified Policy Playbook for Rural Maryland,” featuring Doug O’Brien, Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development, United States Department of Agriculture.
A session on the Affordable Care Act implementation in Rural Maryland
A legislative panel and outlook on the 2014 Maryland General Assembly Session, featuring Chairman Norm Conway, House Appropriations Committee.
A Maryland state agency leaders panel, featuring: Secretary Buddy Hance, Department of Agriculture; Secretary Dominick Murray, Department of Business & Economic Development; Raquel Samson, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and Secretary Ray Skinner, Department of Housing & Community Development
“Increasing Community Prosperity by Increasing Capacity,” presented by Don Macke, director of Entrepreneurial Communities, and Craig Schroeder, senior associate, both of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Lincoln, Neb.
IGNITE Rural Maryland closing session, featuring topics discussed in the conference and other issues that resonate with Rural Maryland.

Maryland 3.0: ESEC Offers 3rd Annual Student Prize for Best Business Plan

The global economy and rapid technology innovations create the need for a nimble workforce that can not only identify new opportunities, but also create them. This recognition of the importance of entrepreneurship motivated two local organizations to sponsor a student business plan competition three years ago.

The third annual Eastern Shore Student Business Plan competition, sponsored by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC) and Maryland Capital Enterprises (MCE), is currently accepting registrations for this year’s contest. The submission deadline is January 27, 2014.

The contest is open to juniors or seniors at any public or private high school in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties as well as full- or part-time community college students (under 25 years of age) at Chesapeake College or Wor-Wic Community College. Awarding $2,000 in cash, the competition is intended to motivate students to assess their own skill sets and areas of personal interest or knowledge in which they could successfully make a living and possibly create jobs for themselves and others on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Submissions will consist of a business plan executive summary only. Each unique executive summary must describe an innovative and scalable plan for a successful business idea or concept, which is fundable. Any idea of a commercial endeavor is valid. All applications must be the original work of those making the submission. Submissions of completed business plans will not accepted. For complete contest rules, visit www.ventureahead.org. For more information, email info@shorebizplan.com.

“Cultivating future entrepreneurs is only one of many outcomes of a business plan contest,” says Mike Thielke, ESEC executive director. “Regardless of the age of the participant students also learn planning, communication, writing, and finance skills. All of which can be used in a variety of setting, not just in creating a startup business,” he adds.

Educators interested in incorporating the contest into their class instruction will be offered resources such as guest speakers and handouts. Educators should contact Mike Thielke at (410) 770-9330 or mike@ventureahead.org.

Semi-final judging will occur by district: Chesapeake – Upper and Mid-Shore Counties (Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot) and Wor-Wic – Lower Shore Counties (Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester). All winners from each district advance to an Eastern Shore final judging.

Semi-Final cash prizes will be awarded to: First Place – $400; Second Place – $250; and Third Place – $100. Final cash prizes will be awarded to: First Place – $800; Second Place – $300; and Third Place – $150.

Founded in 2006, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center works to develop and enhance an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ESEC provides training; services and programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by creating greater access to capital, and offering programs that develop entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Included are NewVenture, a comprehensive 10-week entrepreneur-training program, annual business plan and student plan competitions, and an annual entrepreneur conference.

In 2012, ESEC launched “hotDesks,” providing co-working spaces for independent professionals. The first location opened in Salisbury with a second location to be announced on the Eastern Shore. For more information on the business plan competition or ESEC, call (410) 770-9330 or visit ventureahead.org.

Based in Salisbury, MCE is a private, non-profit microenterprise development organization that has been serving Maryland’s Eastern Shore since 1998. It provides business consulting, training, and small business loans, and is certified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Community Development Financial Institution. MCE operates as a micro-lending intermediary for the SBA, USDA, and the State of Maryland. Last year, MCE began providing small business loans in the Baltimore – Annapolis area, and opened a Baltimore office. To learn more call (410) 546-1900 or visit www.marylandcapital.org.

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Maryland 3.0: 3D Printing Demonstration to be featured for Innovation Week

For many people the thought of 3D printing or “additive manufacturing” as it is sometimes called conjures up images of replicators often seen in science fiction television. The reality is the future is now. However, will 3D printing be the catalyst that drives a major manufacturing resurgence in the United States?

That answer remains to be seen, but it is safe to say that 3D printing will play a key role for small businesses and entrepreneurs looking to innovate and “tinker” with relatively low overhead costs. As key patents that have prevented competition in the market expire early next year, 3D printing’s potential will greatly increase.

Area businesses and entrepreneurs who want to learn more about 3D printing are invited to two special area events, which will feature live demonstrations. Hosted by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC), the events are presented as part of Baltimore Innovation Week, which will be held September 20 to 29.

The events will be held at hotDesks, 31901 Tri-County Way, Salisbury, and include:

  • Monday, September 23, 8 to 10 a.m., Salisbury TechBreakfast Meetup

The inaugural TechBreakfast on the Eastern Shore, this event will bring together entrepreneurs, techies,  developers, designers, business people, and interested people for a 3D printing “show and tell” and  networking.

  • Wednesday, September 25, 5 to 7 p.m., 3D Manufacturing Open House

Participants will network with others interested in 3D printing and manufacturing. Featured guests  include students and faculty from Towson University’s Object Lab who will do a “show and tell”  on  Makerbot® printers. In addition, representatives from Stratasys will demonstrate 3D printing machines  appropriate for larger prototype and manufacturing uses. There will be a presentation by an area  manufacturer who uses 3D (additive) manufacturing in its production.

“Manufacturing still plays an important role in the U.S. economy, but it is more about innovation and trade, and less about jobs,” says Mike Thielke, executive director of ESEC. “The days of massive factories employing thousands of workers is gone. In fact, many of the jobs that today’s manufacturing creates don’t involve making goods at all, but are in technology, IT and R & D. Innovations such as 3D printing will help mold the emerging new manufacturing industry,” he adds. To learn more about Innovation Week events, call (410) 770-9330 or visit ventureahead.org.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 7.40.50 AMBaltimore Innovation Week is a week-long celebration of technology and innovation in Baltimore. The annual week of events is intended to grow the impact of this innovative region through programming focused on technology, collaboration and improving Baltimore. Baltimore Innovation Week 2013 takes place September 20 to 29, 2013. Baltimore Innovation Week is organized by Technical.ly Baltimore.

Founded in 2006, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center works to develop and enhance an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ESEC provides training; services and programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by creating greater access to capital, and offering programs that develop entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Included are NewVenture, a comprehensive 10-week entrepreneur-training program, annual business plan and student plan competitions, and an annual entrepreneur conference.

In 2012, ESEC launched “hotDesks,” providing co-working spaces for independent professionals. The first location opened in Salisbury with a second location to be announced on the Eastern Shore. For more information on the business plan competition or ESEC, call (410) 770-9330, ventureahead.org or connect with ESEC at facebook.com/ESECventureahead.

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Entrepreneurs Can Pitch Ideas in Easton and Salisbury September 9

Entrepreneurs and resources to fuel their startup ideas can be found throughout Maryland. In fact, according to the fourth annual Enterprising States, a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Maryland tops the chart for 10 states ranked for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Promoting and celebrating Maryland’s prominence in the area of entrepreneurship are key components of this year’s Pitch Across Maryland 2.0 15-day bus tour. The pitch tour is a program of Startup Maryland (www.startupmd.org), a regional initiative launched out of the Startup America Partnership.

This year’s event will feature stops in:

Salisbury – Monday, September 9, 1 to 2 p.m., hotDesks, Tri-County Multi-Purpose Center, 31901 Tri-County Way, Salisbury. The stop is co-sponsored by the Tri-County Council of the Lower Shore, Worcester County, and the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC). .
Easton – Tuesday, September 10, 3 to 5 p.m., in front of the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce, Easton Plaza, 101 Marlboro Avenue, Easton. The stop is co-sponsored by Easton Utilities, Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore, and ESEC.

During the stops entrepreneurs climb onto the bus and pitch their idea/business in two to four minutes in the mobile UpStart Show™ video studio. Videos are uploaded to YouTube® and then open to public viewing/voting. Additionally, entrepreneurs are provided coaching, guidance and support from business mentors and other leaders. Entrepreneurs also receive a copy of their video pitch.

The video pitches will be “voted” on through the end of October. The eight top vote getters, the “Great 8,” will be invited to media events and will have the opportunity to present a more comprehensive pitch to a panel of experts at the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) Entrepreneur Expo in November.

The panel will determine a winner and runner-up who will be awarded a variety of services, including free mentorship as well as automatic “bids” into selected 2013 venture competitions.

Entrepreneurs interested in pitching at the Easton and hotDesks stops can register at www.ventureahead.org. For more information, contact Mike Thielke, executive director of the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center, at (410) 770-9330 or mike@ventureahead.org.

In 2012 during the inaugural Pitch Across Maryland Tour, more than 225 startups participated and 168 startups “pitched” their ideas/businesses at 25 stops. Video pitches were narrowed down to three top fan favorites and eight finalists were named Best Candidates for Venture Investment. The Pitch Tour received six months of active media coverage with more than one million press impressions.

Founded in 2006, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center works to develop and enhance an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ESEC provides training, services and programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by creating greater access to capital, and offering programs that develop entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Included are ShoreVenture, a comprehensive 10-week entrepreneur-training program, annual business plan and student plan competitions, and an annual entrepreneur conference.

In 2012, ESEC launched “hotDesks,” providing co-working spaces for independent professionals. The first location opened in Salisbury with a second location to be announced on the Eastern Shore.

Build It and They will Come not True at North East-based i-lighting

Cinderella stories about startup businesses are all too rare in the United States, especially during a slow economy. Staggering statistics about 50 percent plus failure rates are much more likely to grab the headlines. This fact makes the recent InvestMaryland Challenge winner announcement that much more remarkable for North East-based i-lighting™, manufacturer of easy-to-install LED interior and exterior lighting solutions. i-lighting™ was founded in 2007, and this is the first business venture for president and chief executive officer Scott Holland.

Scott Holland and his six-employee team were pleasantly surprised to be named one of three grand prize winning companies that received $100,000 each in cash and prizes in the state’s inaugural national competition for startup firms.

Scott Holland, second from left, president and chief executive officer of i-lighting™, and Mike Thielke, right, executive director of ESEC,  Annapolis. Also pictured are: Sean Ryan, left, vice president of Sales and Marketing; and Kerry Larotonda, second from  right, Customer Service Relations manager.

Scott Holland, second from left, president and chief executive officer of i-lighting™, and Mike Thielke, right, executive director of ESEC,
Annapolis. Also pictured are: Sean Ryan, left, vice president of Sales and Marketing; and Kerry Larotonda, second from
right, Customer Service Relations manager.

i-lighting™ was selected in the General Industry category. In addition to their grand prize honor i-lighting™ also received a $5,000 award from the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC), Easton, Md., for the best submission from a rural business.

“Long after the prize money is gone we will be grateful for what we gained as a business from the process of this experience,” says Holland. “We knew we had a great business, but until this competition we hadn’t done the fine-tuning of our business plan. The various steps of this competition made us look closely at our messaging and our financials. That will be the legacy of this process,” he adds.

What piece of wisdom would he impart to fledgling startups? “Don’t assume you will do well simply because you have a good idea. You have to tell people about your product or service. They won’t automatically come to you,” Holland explains. “By surrounding myself with successful business people I learned from their mistakes. I believe that a ‘smart business’ always starts with the people you hire. Your staff needs to ‘fit’ and everyone needs to be focused on the same goal. In turn, you need to treat them well,” he adds.

The other two InvestMaryland grand prizewinners were: Baltimore-based firms Graybug and RedOwl Analytics. In addition to $100,000, the winners also received two round-trip tickets from Spirit Airlines and legal services from Whiteford Taylor Preston, a Baltimore law firm.

In all, the competition attracted 259 entries from around the country, including 25 out-of-state companies from as far away as California, Georgia and Massachusetts. The field was narrowed over three successive rounds of judging by a panel of 79 investors, successful entrepreneurs, business executives and other members of the Maryland startup community, including Mike Thielke, executive director of ESEC.

“By serving as a judge in this competition it reaffirmed my belief and commitment to the role innovation and technology has in revitalizing the U.S. economy,” says Thielke. “These are the cornerstones of entrepreneurship that I see in my work at ESEC, and it is happening all over the country,” he adds.

Founded in 2006, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC) works to develop and enhance an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ESEC provides training; services and programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by creating greater access to capital, and offering programs that develop entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Included are ShoreVenture, a comprehensive 10-week entrepreneur-training program, annual business plan and student plan competitions, and an annual entrepreneur conference. In 2012, ESEC launched “hotDesks,” providing co-working spaces for independent professionals. For more information on the business plan competition or ESEC, call (410) 770-9330 or visit ventureahead.org.

i-lighting™ was founded to provide easy-to-install, cost-effective and extremely reliable interior and exterior lighting solutions to homeowners, contractors and builders. The company has developed and sold thousands of custom-designed DeckLighting, StairLighting and LandscapeLighting Systems to building and maintenance professionals as well as homeowners throughout the United States.

InvestMaryland Challenge was organized by the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED). The Challenge was designed to build a pipeline of innovative companies for the state’s InvestMaryland program. Created by Governor O’Malley and passed by Maryland’s General Assembly in 2011, the program is being run through the Maryland Venture Fund and DBED. Last year, the state raised $84 million for the program through an online auction of tax credits to Maryland insurance companies.

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Looking for a Few Good Hackers: HotDesks hosts NASA Space Challenge April 19-21

Space exploration has captivated Americans for more than five decades. The science brought back from missions often generated new ideas that were applied to solve challenges for life on Earth. It is with this entrepreneurial spirit that NASA, government agencies and organizations worldwide will host the second International Space Apps Challenge April 20-21, with events across all seven continents.

In all, 80 locations on seven continents in 42 countries including 19 in the United States will participate. hotDesks, a new co-working space in Salisbury, Md., will be the only Delmarva location, and one of only five locations in the Mid-Atlantic region. The 2012 challenge engaged more than 2,000 participants who collaborated on more than 100 open source solutions to 71 featured challenges.

HotDesks will host a weekend event from April 19-21, and is currently accepting registration. To register go to spaceappschallenge.org and click on “register” at the top right. The event is free and is open to individuals with a broad range of skills, including engineers, technologists, scientists, designers, artists, educators, students, and entrepreneurs.

The Salisbury event is presented by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC), Salisbury University, and event partners the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Maryland Capital Enterprises (MCE), and Betamore.

“This event is a perfect launch for our co-working space,” says Mike Thielke, executive director of ESEC. “A co-working space taps into the impact community and teamwork creating new ideas and new businesses. The NASA Space Apps Challenge is also harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of citizen volunteers to solve problems, “ he adds.

“What sets apart the International Space Apps Challenge from other events is that this is a collaborative opportunity to engage people from all over the world to participate in space exploration and develop state-of-the-art technology to improve life on Earth and in space,” said Nick Skytland, program manager of NASA’s Open Innovation Program.

How it works

More than 50 challenges have been designed for this year’s event. Each event location will choose a subset of projects to help focus their teams. Challenges categories include: software; hardware’ citizen science; and data visualization. To view this year’s challenges visit: http://spaceappschallenge.org/challenges.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their own laptops, no computers will be provided. Wireless Internet with sufficient bandwidth and IP addresses will be available. We will be video/web streaming live online connection with other International Space Apps Challenge sites worldwide.

Winning project teams will be selected in areas such as best solution on a specific challenge, most creative solution, most social impact, etc. Two project teams will be selected for consideration in the NASA’s global judging process. Global awards will be announced two to three weeks after the event.

For more event information or to register, visit spaceappschallenge.org.

hotDesks, Tri-County Council Multi-Purpose Center, 31901 Tri-County Way, Salisbury, is Maryland Eastern Shore’s first co-working space. Co-working is a new style of working because it blends the flexibility of working from home with the social and professional benefits of being in a vibrant office. For hotDesks information call (410) 770-9330, info@hotDesks.org or twitter.com/hotDesksMD.

Maryland 3.0: Eastern Shore Gourmet brings Delicious Dipping Sauce to Market

Jessica and Josh Wiggins and their Delicious Dipping Sauce

Jessica and Josh Wiggins and their Delicious Dipping Sauce

Family recipes often make the best value-added food products. However, the process of turning recipes into marketable food products is often grueling, fraught with seemingly insurmountable rules and regulations as well as market development issues like product packaging and pricing strategies.

For Jessica and Chef Josh Wiggins of Blue Water Grill of Millsboro, Del., the journey from ingredients to Delicious Dipping Sauce, was made a little easier thanks to Shore Gourmet of Easton, Md., a service-oriented non-profit organization, formed to help food product entrepreneurs. Kevin Deighan, general manager at Shore Gourmet, helped the Wiggins with product and market development issues such as packaging, label design, nutrient labeling, UPC bar coding, and even figuring out what type of jar to use.

“For years restaurant patrons have often asked if they could buy Josh’s salad dressings, soups and sauces. We chose the dipping sauce for our sweet potato fries because that’s the one that was requested the most,” says Jessica Wiggins, who handles the “front of the house” of their restaurant business, which they opened in 2007.

“I wanted a sweet, delicious but simple sauce that was versatile enough to pair with everything from seafood to veggies. That’s why I created DDS,” says Josh. “With its increasing popularity in the restaurant and several requests from the customers that it should be bottled, it was an easy decision to make when offered the opportunity from Shore Gourmet,” he adds.

Jessica found out about Shore Gourmet from her father who works with USDA Rural Development. “Finding the time simply to run our business was challenging enough. Shore Gourmet took all the business development and product issues off our hands. In addition, Kevin came up with the idea to display the product in a refrigerator out in the open so our restaurant patrons could easily see that it was available for sale,” she adds.

“There are many food entrepreneurs like the Wiggins who have great ideas for new value-added food products. They just don’t have the time or the expertise in product and market development to make it happen. That’s why Shore Gourmet was established,” says Kevin Deighan.

Josh and Jessica are partners in life and the hospitality business. They managed to meld the notoriously long hours of restaurant business with a successful family life as parents of two children Madison, 12, and Ashton, 8. Josh has more than 20 years experience in the hospitality industry and has worked in a variety of restaurants ranging from delis to fine dining from Delaware to Utah. Jessica worked in several of the same restaurants as Josh, but focuses on serving, bartending or hosting. The two successful business people can now add product merchandising to their very full resumes.

The Blue Water Grill (BWG) is located at 226 Main Street in historic, downtown Millsboro. BWG specializes in fresh seafood, creative specials, and gourmet entrees at an affordable fare, and offers personalized service for special events including birthday parties, retirement celebrations, engagement parties, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, and intimate receptions.

Incorporated in 2009, Shore Gourmet is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote and sustain food and agricultural value-added businesses by providing free support to local entrepreneurs to start, grow and diversify value-added food products such as local cheeses, sauces and rubs, meats, soups, seafood products and desserts. Since its inception, Shore Gourmet has been funded mostly by USDA Rural Development and state grants. Shore Gourmet serves Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Delaware. For more information, contact Kevin Deighan, general manager at (410) 770-4454 or kevin@midshore.org or visit shoregourmet.com.

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