- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Local entrepreneurs got aboard the Startup Maryland bus at College of Southern Maryland campuses Tuesday to pitch their ideas and products to potential investors.
Representatives of Startup Maryland, an organization that highlights and supports local entrepreneurs, are driving across Maryland in an effort called Pitch Across Maryland to give local entrepreneurs the opportunity to promote their businesses and possibly win a contest for additional business support.
“We’re trying to shine a light on the undiscovered and give them a megaphone to what they are doing,” Mike Binko said. He is a co-organizer of Startup Maryland and an entrepreneur.
The bus, painted in the colors of Maryland’s flag, features a video room in the back of the bus where entrepreneurs recorded their three- to five-minute pitches.
Startup Maryland is recording entrepreneurial pitches and will post them online in October, where people will get to vote for the videos. Eight videos will be chosen and those entrepreneurs will present their pitches Nov. 13 with the chance to win business production services worth $1,000, said Julie Lenzer Kirk, a co-organizer with Startup Maryland.
The bus has been to the Eastern Shore so far, recording 75 pitches, already more than the 50 pitches Startup Maryland projected, Kirk said. She also is the executive director for the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship.
On Tuesday, the bus stopped at each of the College of Southern Maryland campuses in La Plata, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick.
In La Plata, 12 businesses and several more entrepreneurs hopped aboard to get recorded.
Some of the local entrepreneurs were nervous before getting their pitches taped, but found the experience to be much better than imagined.
LaTonya Barton of Kingdomware Technologies marketed her company’s Business Notifier that communicates with employees about emergencies, events and other concerns through text messages, emails or other forms of instant communication.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” Barton said, adding that Angela Singleton, a business mentor with the Maryland Technology Development Corp., had helped her to prepare.
Maryland TEDCO is one of several sponsors and supporters of Pitch Across Maryland, along with the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development, the University of Maryland and many others.
Barton said winning the contest was not the primary goal of her participation, but added that winning the support would help.
“I’m hoping to be able to increase our business and increase our exposure as we expand into new locations and new markets,” she said.
Others needed to do a couple of tapings, but that didn’t sway Heidi Briguglio of Azure B LLC, as she said Binko was encouraging her throughout the process.
Briguglio markets a compact composter, which allows users to create compost in a 1.5-gallon container and features fast-eating worms that expedite the composting process.
“For me, it is a time saver to be able to access the many services that are available as entrepreneurs — that I don’t need to wait behind a computer to do,” Briguglio said, who runs the business with her boyfriend, Stefano Briguglio.
Kirk noted that part of entrepreneurship is going through tough times and rebounding from those experiences.
The tour not only gave the opportunity for entrepreneurs to tape their pitches, but also for entrepreneurs to connect with one another.
Darlene Breck, who owns Southern Maryland Business Center and is the secretary of the county’s chamber of commerce executive committee, said that she was wishing them the best of luck in their pitches.
“Every entrepreneur has their story, and everyone has a story to tell,” Breck said.
SouthernMarylandTV.com producers Darryl and Renee Pugh not only did an entrepreneurial pitch, they interviewed the entrepreneurs themselves.
The business records interview-like commercials for businesses, Darryl Pugh said.
The entrepreneurs also encouraged one another as they entered and exited the recording room.
Local economic support organizations expressed praise for the event.
“It was much better than we originally thought,” said Steven Wall, the Southern Maryland office manager of the state Department of Business & Economic Development adding, “For the amount of time we had, it shows folks we have entrepreneurs out there.”
Marcia Keeth, director of business retention and expansion with the county’s Economic Development Department, said she was “blown away” by the interest expressed from people who participated.
“These entrepreneurs are really the foundation of business growth in Southern Maryland,” Keeth said.
The department considers finding startups and helping them to grow to be very important, she added, noting that the department is available to help year-round.
Others expressed thanks for the services offered by Startup Maryland.
“I’m glad they’re able to see all the nooks and crannies in Maryland. I’m happy to see them bring their resources right to your doorstep,” said Tracy Jones, who owns a student-athlete development company called Fam-First Athletics.
Although Pitch Across Maryland was intended to be a one-time event, entrepreneurs told Kirk they looked forward to seeing the bus next year.
“Maybe we’ll make this an annual thing,” Kirk said.