Before Small Business Month comes to a close, I wanted to highlight something pretty cool I learned about at HarborOne this spring: the bank’s very first small business “pitch contest.”
Modeled on the ABC show “Shark Tank,” the bank held the competition early this month, inviting eight small business owners to its Mansfield facility at HarborOne U. to pitch their potential business plans to three judges.
“HarborOne certainly has been looking to build awareness around our capabilities around small business and working with small businesses, but we also used it to highlight HarborOne U., where we have coursework and support,” Scott Sanborn, HarborOne’s senior vice president of commercial lending, told me recently.
Sanborn was one of the judges, along with Brockton City Councilor Shaynah Barnes and Jegoo Lee, an assistant professor of business administration at Stonehill College.
Darlene Sicard of Seekonk ultimately took home the grand prize, a $2,500 grant that she’ll use to hire a consultant to help her with branding, social media and online marketing for her business, D’s Lectables. Sicard, who prefers the title of “creative baker,” said she learned of the competition through HarborOne U., where she figures she’s taken maybe 10 or so classes.
Sicard’s passion is baking, and for the past 15 years, she’s run her business out of her home, handcrafting treats to meet her customers’ specifications, whether that’s a vegan or gluten-free cookie or simply a treat made with a certain type of flour.
“My goal has always been to own my own bake shop,” she said. “I’ve been working out of my house because I wanted to be at home as my children were growing up. Now that they are older and I can take that step, I’m working towards getting a storefront in town.”
But Sicard knows she needs to promote her business. Self-promotion isn’t exactly her thing, though; baking is. She told me that entering the contest seemed like a great way to practice pitching her business. Though she practiced and practiced and kept careful note cards for the day in question, she recalled putting them down when it was her turn and going on autopilot.
Apparently, the preparation paid off.
“From my perspective as a judge, [the winners] were chosen for the way they approached their particular business; they had a clear understanding as to what their next steps were and they clearly outlined what they could use the winnings for,” Sanborn said.
Two runners up each took home a $1,000 prize.
“I think we do have a strong interest in doing it again,” Sanborn said. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.”