Momentum inspires five local businesses

May 18, 2019

One of the beautiful attractions of Ludington isn’t just the breathtaking views, it’s the thriving local businesses that line the downtown streets. Momentum Business Plan Competition provides essential support and recognition to local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Everyone left a winner Friday night’s competition at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts. Sarah Stechschulte of Inspired Parties received the grand prize of $14,000. The four remaining contestants received $9,000.

Stechschulte, in her pitch, said she’d expand her business using three phases. The first phase was to establish her own studio, the second phase is to add other types of art classes. Finally, to add more space in her building that will allow for larger classes, space rental, and hiring employees so that she can divide her time between the studio and events. Since her business opening two years ago, Stechschulte said, her revenue has increased by 120 percent, and with the extension to her building she predicts it will increase by another 75 percent.

In this competition, styled after the TV show “Shark Tank,” five finalists compete for up to $50,000 on Friday night at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts during the fifth annual Momentum Businesses Plan. This year’s finalists include HumaniTea, Art by Mary Case, The Tailor Shop, Inspired Parties and Leta’s Educational Daycare.

“It seemed like such a level playing field,” Kathy Maclean, former president and CEO of the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “We felt Inspired Parties had a solid business plan, good presentation and she was very coachable.”

The Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce made major changes to the program. The competition formally held in the fall was moved to mid-May, and the amount $50,000 has been divided into separate awards.

The reason for these changes was to increase participation and benefit more local businesses. The $100,000 cap was also lifted to allow more opportunity for businesses to apply for the competition.

The changes were to allow businesses to work on their business plans during the slower winter months, and the Chamber of Commerce hoped this would encourage more people to apply to the competition. Having the competition in the spring is more beneficial because the money could be put to use before the busy summer months.

“We thought that making these changes would draw more people to apply but we didn’t see any significant changes in the number of applicants,” Tom Hinman, the chamber’s talent and entrepreneur coordinator said. “We normally have 15 applicants.”

The process begins months in advance. Participants spend months analyzing their goals, business models and finances, they can even have a mentor provided by the chamber of commerce. Participants send a fully completed business plan and financial analysis in January through April. Judges receive entries and pick the finalists they want to hear pitch.

Business pitches were judged on the use of market research data, presentation, scalability, assumptions, business plan with measurable stages, and a competitive edge.

Last year, Sister Bees received the first place award of $50,000. HumaniTea and Leta’s Educational Daycare also competed last year, and returned with hopes to win more money that will help them achieve their goals. Last year, HumaniTea received a third place prize of $2,500.

HumaniTea used last year’s award to purchase a milk steamer that allows them to make hot drinks such as lattes. It’s increased their gross revenue by 24 percent.

“We’ve been able to show results and that their investment in us has paid off,” HumaniTea co-owner Chris Turnball said.

People in the Ludington community feel passionately about local business and hope to see it continue to grow. What’s unique about the entrepreneurs that start small businesses is that they are willing to risk their livlihood to hopefully see it pay off for not only themselves, but also for the community. The goal of the competition is for people to continue to invest in their community, Maclean said.

“This competition is meaningful to Ludington because the recipients of the awards can grow, it creates visibility and awareness for local business, and the priority is on small business development in Ludington,” Carmen Biggs said.

Momentum Business Plan Competition is funded by Pennies From Heaven Foundation and organized by the Ludington & Scottville Chamber of Commerce. Panelists included Raymond Biggs, John Wilson, Thomas Paine, Kathy Maclean, and Jim Scatena.

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