The nonprofit formed in the wake of the 2018 Mendocino Complex fire, 1Team 1Dream, is kicking off its 2nd small business competition, Hands Up Lake County, 2021. Small Lake County businesses and business hopefuls are encouraged to apply for a chance to win cash prizes of $20,000, $12,000, $8,000, $6,000 and $4,000.
After a successful effort in 2020, founders Maryann Schmid and Olga Martin Steele, promise an even better experience in 2021. The application process opens on April 1, 2021. Apply online at the www.1team1dream.net website.
“We learned a great deal from our first-year experience,” said Steele. “This year, the 1-day workshop and follow-up training will focus on business management, financial planning and digital marketing, the areas our applicants most benefited from last year.”
The idea for the competition is the brainchild of Founder Maryann Schmid, a fan of the popular television program, Shark Tank, where contestants seek investors to support their businesses. “Our project works a little differently,” she said.
In Hands Up Lake County, a broad range of community donors sponsor the project, including the cash awards, training, and the event. “The size of the cash awards depends on the amount of money we’re able to raise. Thanks to our supporters, we’re pleased to announce in 2021 the cash awards are substantially higher,” she said.
The 2020 competition drew 37 applicants, small businesses and entrepreneurs, who pitched their ideas – either to start a new business or build on a current business – for a chance to win from $15,000 to $1,000 in cash. “This year, the stakes are higher,” Schmid said
Interest has been building since the winners of last year’s competition were announced. “We hope to draw from an even larger applicant pool this year,” said Schmid’s partner Olga Steele. “We encourage last year’s applicants – except for the winners – to re-apply as well as anyone who has a well thought out business idea for a startup business or is ready to take an existing business to the next level,” she said.
Currently, 5 major sponsors have stepped up to support the business competition: the Cities of Clearlake and Lakeport, Foods Etc., Lake County Tribal Health and The Lodge at Blue Lakes. “We hope others will follow suit,” said Steele.
“This is the only business competition of its type intended to provide an immediate cash boost and on-going mentorship and training,” said Clearlake City Manager, Alan Flora. “I liked the idea when it was presented to us last year and we boosted the first prize to $15,000 by adding our $10,000 cash sponsorship to The Lodge at Blue Lakes’ original prize match. This year, after seeing the great results, we decided to bump our contribution to $25,000.”
In the 2020 competition, two Clearlake businesses won 1st and 2nd cash prizes, Lam Printing and Clear Lake Boat Rentals. “We are encouraging other City business participate,” Flora said.
Dennis Darling, owner of Foods Etc. and one of the judges in the mini-competition, decided to support this year’s contest with a $10,000 donation. He too liked the idea, not only the cash prizes but the continuing education that 1Team 1Dream provides to the winners.
“As judges we were tasked with selecting 6 of the 15 businesses chosen to advance to a pre-finalist stage in the competition,” he said. “In the pre-finalist stage, the presentations were video-taped as were the final presentations. From October 30 when we narrowed the competition to 6, to the finals on December 6 when the presenters competed before a new set of judges, it was impressive to see the improvement of the presenters. They strengthened their business plans and polished their pitching skills; it was apparent the process they had to follow made a difference,” Darling said. “I’m sold on the idea as a way to help our local businesses become more resilient in the face of market vagaries.”
Kevin Ingram, Lakeport City Manager, said he was pleased to see two Lakeport businesses compete well in the finals; Susie Q’s Donuts and Espresso and the Ripe Choice Farm and Catering.
“The idea builds on a model of encouragement and training to help businesses weather the ups and downs of economic trends,” Ingram said. “It has merit and is a unique way to help grow our economy by directly supporting our small businesses, not just with money but with ongoing mentorship and training.”
The City supported the business contest last year and is increasing their donation to the $10,000 level.
Ernesto Padilla, CEO of Lake County Tribal Health, served as a Judge in the final competition and decided to donate $6,000 to support the project this year. “The enthusiasm of the presenters and the product diversity offered was a factor in our decision to support the project,” he said. “The richness of what these small businesses had to offer – unique candles and soaps, coffees and healthy drinks, boat rentals, printing services, catering and sweet treats delivered to your door – reinforced our commitment to the economic possibilities in our County.”
In the first year, premier sponsors and owners of The Lodge at Blue Lakes, Peter and Maryann Schmid, donated towards all the cash prizes that were matched by major donors. This year, The Lodge at Blue Lakes is donating $25,000 to sponsor some of the educational programs and underwrite the organization’s expenses.
“Peter and I want to promote local economic growth and to do that, we believe it is important to support small businesses directly with a financial boost and the on-going training and mentoring that will make things a bit easier when tough times hit. A big part of that is understanding markets and the tools that can help the market place standing of small businesses,” Schmid said.
The competition will culminate in a Gala on Sunday, December 12, 2021 at the Konocti Vista Casino & Resort Event Center, where 5 chosen applicants will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for a chance at their share of $50,000.
For more information visit the website, www.1team1dream.net, email your questions to email@example.com or call Olga Martin Steele at 916-849-8170.