Got a plan for a business? $50,000 prize available in 2016 Momentum Business Plan Competition.

June 23, 2016


PERE MARQUETE TOWNSHIP – Call it the “Shark Tank” of west Michigan. Entrepreneurs with a viable business idea or those who have started a company with less than $100,000 in sales annually can compete for $50,000 in prize money. The catch? The winner must start (or relocate) the business in Mason County.

Administered by the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Momentum Business Plan Competition is in its second year of offering a $50,000 cash prize to an eligible independent for-profit or non-profit venture with a viable business idea, plan or invention; or an existing organization or company with less than $100,000 in sales or revenue annually. Winners also receive quarterly advising from the Momentum board of directors comprised of CEOs from five Mason County businesses. Eligible contestants can upload a business plan to until July 31. Entrance requirements and rules also can be found on the contest website,

“This business plan competition is all about encouraging entrepreneurs to create and thrive,” said Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Kathy Maclean. “Our goal is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit and give business visionaries the tools to succeed while showcasing how small towns like Ludington are perfect places to implement a new business.”

Interested applicants should submit their plan according to the format on the website by July 31. On Aug. 15, a selection committee will shortlist applicants to ten candidates. Five finalists will be announced Aug. 26, who will receive the opportunity to meet with a mentor from the Ludington & Scottville Area Chapter of SCORE (national nonprofit that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs) for coaching and feedback. Based on that feedback, the five finalists can improve their plans and submit a revised plan by Sept. 12, ultimately pitching their idea in person before a panel of judges and public audience on Friday, Sept. 23, 6 to 8 p.m. at West Shore Community College.

New Contest Elements in Second Year

While the contest is only in its second year, the Momentum Competition board of directors has added some new elements to help foster more success for contestants:

  • How-To Workshops – Workshops will be offered to assist interested applicants with the process. The Ludington & Scottville Chamber held a “Keys to Success” workshop June 16, and the local SCORE chapter will host a Financial Planning workshop June 30 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Book Mark, 201 S. Rath Ave.
  • Coordinating with Google Startup Weekend Ludington – Camp BluSky in Grant Township hosts 2016 Startup Weekend Ludington July 29 – 31, part of a global grassroots movement started by Google for Entrepreneurs. The 54-hour event allows anyone to pitch a startup idea, receive feedback from peers and create a business model that is presented to industry leaders at the end of the weekend. The winning idea from Startup Weekend Ludington will receive an automatic slot in the Top 10 of the Momentum Business Plan Competition as long as the submitting team complies with the Momentum application requirements.
  • More mentorship – All applicants are encouraged to contact the Ludington & Scottville Area Chapter of SCORE for assistance in preparing a business plan. The five finalists also will receive the opportunity to meet with a mentor from SCORE for specific feedback on their submitted plans. The finalists are encouraged to improve and revise their plans based on that feedback by the Sept. 12 deadline. Following the competition, the winner will meet quarterly with the Momentum board of directors and the 2015 winner for ongoing mentoring.
  • Possible audience with investors – The Momentum board of directors is inviting Michigan-based angel investors to sit in the audience on the live pitch night to help finalists make potential financial contacts.

“Our 2015 Momentum Business Plan Competition was successful, and we want to expand the impact this year with more resources for our finalists to foster a welcoming and collaborative environment to help early-stage businesses succeed,” said John Wilson, chairman of the Momentum board, CEO of Western Land Services, and chairman of the Pennies from Heaven Foundation that funds the contest award. “We also want to show these entrepreneurs that Mason County has the resources and support network to help new businesses succeed.”

2015 Momentum Finalists Succeeding

Last year’s winner was Andy Thomas who pitched Starving Artist Brewing, his Amber Township-based production-only nano-brewery that opened for business June 25, 2015. Starving Artist was barely open at the time of winning the award, which accelerated Thomas’ business growth plan. Starving Artist ramped up production and doubled its capacity, now selling beer to taprooms throughout the geographic region of distributor Alliance Beverage (from the southwest Michigan border north to Manistee and east to Lansing). Starving Artist beer also is available regularly at Ludington restaurants Chuck Wagon Pizza and Blu Moon Bistro, along with The Hof in Free Soil. Starving Artist also launched a growler club limited to 50 people that sold out quickly. Thomas’ long-term business plan is to package and sell canned beer plus distribute as far north as Traverse City.

“Winning this award was flattering to say the least,” said Thomas. “And probably just as important as securing the funding was receiving ongoing mentoring from the top CEOs of Mason County businesses. It was like I had an instant board of directors to help guide my brewery’s top business decisions.”

In addition to Thomas with Starving Artist, three of the four 2015 finalists also have launched or expanded their pitched businesses. Past contestants are encouraged to reapply.

Competition Background

The Momentum Business Plan Competition was spearheaded in 2015 by Pennies from Heaven founder John Wilson to foster and grow the entrepreneurial spirit of Mason County where he made his business mark. The Momentum Business Plan Competition board of directors is comprised of CEOs from Mason County businesses, including Pennies from Heaven Foundation, Floracraft, Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, Metalworks and West Shore Bank.

The Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce administers the program to encourage a new business to come to Mason County through the competition and to demonstrate that small towns like Ludington and Scottville are ripe environments for small businesses to grow and thrive.

A case in point – 40 percent of the 500 Chamber members are small businesses with less than five employees. Since 2015, the Chamber has seen 39 small businesses open in the downtown district alone, including new restaurants (Thai, southern barbecue), a bakery, frozen yogurt shop, dog boutique/groomer and tailor shop.

About the Momentum Business Plan Competition

Launched in 2015, the Momentum Business Plan Competition awards one business entrepreneur a prize of $50,000 to start or move an early-stage business to Mason County. A collaborative effort by Pennies from Heaven Foundation, Floracraft, Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, Ludington Daily News, Ludington SCORE, Metalworks, West Shore Community College and West Shore Bank, the competition is meant to assist business formation in Mason County by providing financial resources and mentoring to expedite the startup phase and increase the likelihood of success. Prize money and in-kind support is provided by the previously-mentioned organizations who share a passion for entrepreneurism and for the Mason County community. More information, including rules and eligibility, is available at and

About Mason County

Situated along the shores of Lake Michigan and home to the cities of Ludington and Scottville as well as the villages of Free Soil, Fountain and Custer, Mason County offers an ideal place to live, work and play. Mason County is home to green energy, manufacturing, agribusiness and tourism industry businesses. For more information, visit

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