Salisbury University Ratcliffe Winners

The 16 competitors in the fifth installment of Salisbury University’s Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery business funding competition changed the game — literally — with their presentations.

For the first time in the history of the competition, now in its third year, judges needed only one round of interviews to determine the winners. William Burke, Shore Hatchery director, said the experience could possibly change the event in the future, with a single round, rather than the two-round contest competitors experienced in previous years.

“This was the best-prepared group of applicants since the start of the Shore Hatchery in 2014,” he said. “The pitches were perfect.”

Burke and John Hickman, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at SU, attributed the impressive cohort to an “entrepreneurship ecosystem” that includes agencies both on and off campus. In addition to the SBDC; SU’s Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON); and the University’s entrepreneurship competitions, members include the Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO), Eastern Shore Entrepreneurial Center (Hot Desks), Maryland Capital Enterprises (MCE), Pocomoke City and Worcester County incubator space, Maryland Department of Commerce, Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Launch SBY and area economic development offices.

These organizations worked with this semester’s Shore Hatchery participants prior to their pitches to the judges, comprised of the program’s board of directors.

“We’re all working together for their success,” Burke said.

Half of the entrants walked away with their share of some $110,000 in prize money. They included:

  • Operational Precision Systems, LLC – $40,000. A $5,000 winner in last spring’s Shore Hatchery competition, this company is developing a cloud-based drinking water quality monitoring and management service, with an eye toward expanding into air quality, ground quality and waste management monitoring.
  • Badjo-T Industries – $20,000. Inspired by video games and anime, the principals of this company design and manufacture custom, high-tech suits for live-action role playing.
  • 5POP Sports, LLC – $15,000. The winner of the highest prize at this year’s Student Entrepreneurship Competitions, the $10,000 Richard A. Bernstein Achievement Award for Excellence, also impressed the Shore Hatchery judges with plans to manufacture a digital football training device that already has garnered interest from collegiate coaches.
  • Sleeper Creeper, Inc. – $15,000. This company plans to manufacture collapsible mechanic’s “creepers” for professional drivers who occasionally need to perform maintenance or repairs beneath a vehicle while on the road.
  • AM Cooling – $5,000. Using gel technology, this company plans to produce medical “sleeves” that would provide therapeutic temperature control to stimulate healing for injuries such as sprains and muscle strains.
  • Joost Wafel Co. – $5,000. This Delaware-based manufacturer of stroopwafels (European cookies) earned its second infusion of Shore Hatchery funding, following a successful initial pitch in 2014.
  • T&J Tech – $5,000. The principals of this business are developing a 3-D-printed, energy-efficient battery.
  • The Frozen Farmer, LLC – $5,000. This Delaware-based retailer of cold and frozen treats, established earlier this year, plans to expand with a new location in Bridgeville.

For those who were not selected, competition judge and Shore Hatchery board member Jim Perdue, CEO of Perdue Farms, offered encouragement: “Persistence is important in entrepreneurship. Everybody is a winner in the sense that we were impressed with everyone.”

The sixth installment of the competition is scheduled in the spring, with $90,000 in seed funding available. Administered through SU’s Franklin P. Perdue School of Business, the goal of the Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery program is to fund entrepreneurs in the mid-Atlantic and have new businesses opening within six months, with the potential of employing five or more within a year.

In addition to funding, winners and participants also receive mentoring support from the program’s board. Members include business leaders such as Dave Rommel and Mike Cottingham of Rommel Holdings, Frank Gunion of South Moon Under, Jennifer Layton of Layton’s Chance Vineyards and Winery, Katherine Kiernan of APPI Energy and Sandy Fitzgerald-Angello of Pohanka Automotive, among others.

The next Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery submission period is February 22-March 21. For application materials and more information visit http://shorehatchery.salisbury.edu/.

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