1Team 1Dream small biz competition stages tomorrow’s must haves

A version of this article was first published on Record-Bee.

LAKE COUNTY>> Sometimes from the ashes of destruction rises a powerful idea that sparks people to rebuild not only what was lost, but improve what came before and prosper beyond their prior capacity, which is one outcome of the Mendocino Complex Fire that nearly destroyed essential commercial activity in much of Lake County.

(File photo-LAKE COUNTY PUBLISHING) Kim and August Schmitt from August Schmitt Realty Solutions sponsored previous events for the 1Team 1Dream business competition.

“That fire came close to burning out Lakeport, and evacuated the entire North Shore District (largest geographical district in Lake County) in July 2018,” said Olga Martin Steele, recalling where she and her friend Maryann Schmid lived at the time.

“We saw the devastation to the business community and wanted to offer a hand up but not a handout.”

It was a large web of fires noted Steele, “And the River and Ranch Fires impacted Lake County profoundly,” she said. “There were 459,123 total acres burned by the time it was contained, which was about three months after the fire first sparked.”
Small business is the backbone for this rural economy, further explained Steele. The goal was to grow and support the local economy through providing seed funding to Lake County small businesses in order to get them back on their feet again. So, from that disaster was launched the nonprofit: 1 Team 1 Dream, and achieved this through a few small businesses at a time. Schmid is Steele’s co-founder in the nonprofit.

The first year of the competition dozens were initially screened and from that 20, (judged by local business leaders) who were selected to do a business plan presentation and from that number eight were culled for the final presentation at the Soper Reese Theater. First place winners the first year of the Hands Up Lake County Business Competition in 2020 were Nick and Mayra Lam, owners of Lam Printing (silkscreen/embroidery) in Clearlake, who were awarded $15,000. The second year, 2021, Catherine Ann Reese, who turned a photo studio into a lodging business, Reese Ranch Retreat, won $20,000. And in 2022, Melinda and Simon Price co-founders of Peace & Plenty Farm won $25,000.

Lake County was emerging from a prolonged recession when the fire struck in 2018. Yet the likeminded Steele and Schmid decided rather than cocoon from hardship they outreached to their county neighbors. “I think, these small businesses selected from so many (all over Lake Co.) they’ve demonstrated they have what it takes in a tough, rural economy,” Steele said.

In their fourth year of recognizing enterprising businesses 1Team1 Dream have surged from prizes totaling about $38,000 in their first year (during the Pandemic) to $120,000 in 2023. This year cash prizes range from $5,000 to $30,000. Their sponsors include a mix of private and public entities – who see this as a way to stimulate the local economy.

On October 15 they will award eight small businesses in two categories, startup (less than one year in business) and established businesses. They are competing for prizes ranging from $5,000 to $30,000. Competitors will make their best pitch on stage to three judges who will determine the prize level each business will receive.

Also, there is one more prize – “The Fan Favorite.” This is a $1,000 prize given to the business who got the most votes on an online voting opportunity that allows each business to compete with each other online.

“These businesses were part of an initial pool of applicants (68 applied), Steele said. “Of these, 20 were selected to attend a full-day workshop to brush up their business planning skills and then compete in a ‘mini competition’ where local business leaders (judges) selected eight to advance to the final competition on October 15.”

Steele offers kudos to all her individual and commercial sponsors yet did give a shout-out to Lake County Tribal Health and Pomo of Upper Lake along with a gracious appreciation to all their benefactors.

The 2023 Hands Up Lake County Business Competition Gala takes place October 15 at 1 p.m. at the Soper Reese Theater, 275 S. Main St., Lakeport. Unfortunately, limited space required to make the evening an invitation only event to provide ample opportunity to award recipients, presenters and the sponsors. However, 1Team 1 Dream invites the public to view the Gala on their website, 1team1dream.net or watch a podcast at: https://www.youtube.com.

It All Starts With An Idea. Be The Difference.