The genesis of the 1Team 1Dream nonprofit dates back to the Mendocino Complex Fire when founder Maryann Schmid, who owns The Lodge at Blue Lakes along with husband Peter, conceived of the 1Team 1Dream idea and asked her friend Olga Martin Steele to join her in helping local businesses who were suffering due to the devastation wrought by the fire.
Saturday brought the next phase of a competition, loosely modeled after the popular “Shark Tank” TV show, organized by 1Team 1Dream designed to help local businesses and entrepreneurs during a one day training at New Paradigm College.
Dubbed, “Hands Up Lake County,” the competition is between a handful of Lake County small businesses vying for a $15,000 grand prize and various other cash awards which came from donations by both private and public entities. The businesses selected represent a wide range of industries, everything from community coffeehouses to catering and Airbnb rentals, to a well known regional online entertainment and lifestyle news site.
According to Steele, it was not an easy task for the judges, consisting of the nonprofit’s board of directors, herself, Schmid, Helena Welsh, executive director of the Lake County Winery Association, and Jeff Warrenburg, business owner and president of the Lake County Rotary Club, to narrow down 36 applications to the 15 businesses which were ultimately selected to take part in Saturday’s one day business planning training held at the college.
Local instructors Denise Rushing, and Carol Cole-Lewis took participants through the basics of business plan development, financials, marketing and touched upon a number of important topics for businesses. All participants received a workbook complete with templates and reference materials and have access to an online portal consisting of marketing tools and resources.
“We developed a program based on what we’ve done with clients,” said Rushing, who added she and Cole-Lewis used their extensive experience in fundraising during Saturday’s workshop. Rushing also spoke about the challenges associated with putting on a presentation while trying to maintain social distance. One way she said this was accomplished was by providing plenty of ventilation at the venue. “Everybody is doing their part to stay safe,” she said.
In addition to discussions about the strengths and weaknesses faced by business of various sizes and staff levels, topics covered during the workshop included instruction and exercises on financial projections, the development of a business model, the benefits and challenges associated with competitors, team building, and traditional and online marketing tools.
Among the local participating businesses who zoomed in were Lisa Wilson from Clear Lake Campground Camping and RV who spoke about her campground’s current and planned services for guests, and David Wakefield whose Lake County Bloom website started in Middletown in 2018, Originally the Middletown Mercury, was rebranded as the Bloom. Wakefield stated that if his business was selected as a finalist, the funds would be used to design and market a website promoting a contest showcasing the best services in the area.
Other participating businesses included True Grit Coffeehouse in Loch Lomond, the Wholly Bowl in Lakeport, Lam Printing in Clearlake, Stacy Marie Essentials, and Mark Rothrock’s mobility equipment repair service.
The Ripe Choice Farm and Catering, owned and operated by Tammy and Mark Lipps, transplants from Manhattan Beach who took over the Dancing Poly Farm property before the shutter in place orders came down in March.
Tammy Lipps said their full-service catering boutique serves deliciously fresh food, but she wants to refine her business plan because her property now includes an event space, and an Airbnb farm stay loft above their farm. “COVID wasn’t part of our business plan,” she said. “But we felt we were moving a successful catering business into its own space. We just needed to get to know the community and that was challenging. We felt like we were starting in a new place, not a new idea.”
Saturday’s competition will result in five finalists who will go on to pitch their ideas before a panel of business leaders on October 31 at a location yet to be determined and at the final gala and competition on Dec. 6, 2020 tentatively scheduled at the Soper Reese Theatre in Lakeport, pending the status of the pandemic.