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Business-plan contest under way in Lancaster

Competition features entrepreneurs who hope to do good while making money

In what has become an annual staple for Lancaster County entrepreneurs, 11 teams are competing for startup funding in a business-plan contest sponsored by two nonprofits.

The contest, the 2017 Great Social Enterprise Pitch, aims to bolster new businesses that aspire to have make positive social or environmental impact in addition to making money.

Now in its fourth year the competition is sponsored by nonprofit Assets and the Lancaster County Community Foundation.

Business ideas this year range from opening a café for people with disabilities to launching a publication that features local artists and writers.

The 11 teams were selected from a pool of 36 applications based on several criteria: the clarity of the problem the enterprise would address; the enterprise’s proposed impact on that problem; the potential for profitability and the enterprise’s ability to support living-wage jobs for people who have barriers to employment, a news release said.

Participating teams will attend a four-month series of learning sessions led by Assets staff that will help them with business planning. 

This fall each team will launch a crowdfunding campaign to generate awareness and dollars in support of its concept. Five of the 11 concepts will then be invited to pitch ideas to a live audience with the potential to win $50,000 in cash prizes and pro bono services from local businesses.

Last year’s winner was a company called Melanin Essentials, which sells specialty hair, skin and body care products.

The participants

  1. Rebecca and Michael Bedenbaugh,  Fellow Foodies: Provide busy families with healthy, locally sourced prepared meals that are produced by employees who previously struggled to find a good job with good wages.
  2. Rose Luciano, Fruition Collective: Open an event space in downtown Lancaster for underrepresented artists and entrepreneurs.
  3. Winona Quigley and Tyler Stoltzfus, Green Matters Natural Dye Company: Make pollution-free color for the textile industry.
  4. Amer Alfayadh, Languages Beyond Borders: Supply Lancaster and neighboring communities with trained, professional interpreters hired from among the local refugee population.
  5. Sierra Wood, Meraki Mocha: Open a farm-to-table café that will cater to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  6. Tracy Jones, Mind, Body, Battle Incubator: Use athletics to strengthen the community.
  7. James Stafford, Mundo: Provide a cleaning service that uses environmentally friendly products and ensures a living wage for cleaners.
  8. Bhim Thapaliya and David Nagel, Nepali Spice Co.: Create Asian spice blends that are manufactured by Nepali refugee women and sold to restaurants.
  9. Mark Wieder, Popped Culture: Found a gourmet popcorn company that connects youth with jobs, mentorship, and entrepreneurial training.
  10. Sophie Roman, The Townie: Launch a publication that features local artists and writers who represent the entire community.
  11. Mustafa Nour, Unbanned: Open a restaurant that serves food from countries whose citizens have recently been banned from entry into the U.S., and staff the restaurant with refugees.

Lenay Ruhl

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