A founding premise of the Hands Up Lake County Business Competition is that small businesses are the backbone of our rural economy. Formed to support and promote economic growth and stability, the nonprofit, 1Team 1Dream, hosted a workshop designed to prepare the 2022 applicants for phase 3 of the competition – a “mini competition” on September 24.
In the mini competition, 18 workshop participants will present and pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges tasked with selecting eight presenters who will advance to a final competition in November. In the final competition, the selected businesses and startups will compete for cash prizes ranging from $25,000 to $5,000 for established businesses and $10,000 to $3,000 for business startups. A total of $100,000 will be awarded.
“Three years ago, we took a leap of faith, along with several inaugural sponsors,” said Founder Maryann Schmid. “That year, we awarded $28,000 to six local businesses. Our inaugural sponsors have been with us since. We always acknowledge them at the workshop – it’s important for the competitors to know the business community is in their corner,” she said. “Today, in our third year of operation, we owe a debt of gratitude to these sponsors: the cities of Clearlake and Lakeport; Community First Credit Union; Lake County Tribal Health; the Law Offices of Mary Heare Amodio; the Rotary Clubs of Clear Lake and Lakeport; Savings Bank of Mendocino County; the Schmid’s, former owners of the Lodge at Blue Lakes; and Jim and Olga Steele.”
Selected from a pool of 72 applicants,18 startup and established small businesses that attended the workshop spent the day learning how to develop a winning business plan and the tools and techniques to market and promote their products and services.
On hand to encourage and support the 2022 contestants was last year’s 1st place winner, Catherine Reese of Reese Ranch Retreat. She had this advice for the applicants.
“Of course, everybody wants to win a cash award, but whether or not you are selected to advance, it’s important to soak in every bit of learning because if you are as passionate as I was to make it in business – you will benefit from the information, shared knowledge, and the experience of going through a competition that forces you to stretch yourselves,” Reese said.
Reese answered many questions and closed with this, “honestly, I was more in competition with myself than the other businesses. I wanted to do my personal best, that’s what kept me going, I realized that whether or not I was chosen to go to the finals, I did my best and I grew from the experience.”
Stephen O’Mara, a business consultant and adjunct professor with Mendocino College led the workshop. “He’s an educator who adds a dimension to the workshop that comes from years of hands-on business experience and acumen,” said Co-Founder Olga Steele. “We especially appreciate the way he connects on a personal level with the applicants. He’s the kind of teacher you remember as influential in your journey to success – we couldn’t ask for better.”
O’Mara said the ultimate goal of the workshop is to prime the competitors for success. “In my second year with the competition, I am truly impressed with the group this year. The workshop is a condensed business planning course. They get the basics, a model to follow, and a small taste of what’s ahead at the end of the training when each competitor delivers a 3-minute elevator pitch,” O’Mara said. “I don’t envy the panel of judges who will have the task of selecting the finalists – theirs should not be an easy task and if I do my job right, it won’t be.”
Summing up the day, Board Member Monica Rosenthal reviewed the workshop, calling attention to the main take-aways.
“You’ve learned why 1Team 1Dream has made this a signature project – to help grow a sustainable local economy. You’ve also learned how to better market your goods and services . And you’ve learned the tools that are available to you to improve on your business models. Now It’s up to you to take what was presented here today and apply it,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal closed the day with this message. “Whether or not you make it to the final competition and win a cash award, you’ve gained a support system and the tools and insights to make it in business. You’re all winners, I hope you know that.”
On September 24, all 18 participants will compete for a chance to win a cash prize. The 8 selected to advance to the final competition will receive additional help to polish their presentations. All participants will be highlighted on social media and those that don’t advance to the finals can reapply next year.
Presenting the prizes at the November 5 event are the 2022 major sponsors: the Cities of Clearlake and Lakeport, the County of Lake, Foods Etc., Lake County Tribal Health, Reynolds Systems, Inc., The Schmids and The Team – Rita & Roxana.