Sometimes the idea is the easy part for entrepreneurs. And for the competitors of the Emerging Enterprise Center’s (EEC) Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition, the idea is just the beginning of a very long road. We’ve all heard the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child.” This is similarly true for the entrepreneurs that competed last Friday, November 1st for the EEC’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch competition. All of the finalists represent the successful summation of the village of a positive economic ecosystem represented by local universities, other mentor entrepreneurs, a cooperative local government, investment companies and of course the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (NCCCC). And of all of the entrepreneurs it is especially true for this year’s winner, Wilminvest, LLC.
Over more than 10 years, the EEC has worked with 44 companies, generating $68.8 Million in revenues and employing 231 people. These results don’t happen alone. Both the NCCCC and the EEC have actively reached out to the entrepreneurial community to partner on efforts to create awareness among small businesses and budding entrepreneurs to let them know that they are not alone; there are resources available to help them. Competitions like the EEC’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition not only provide seed money for young entrepreneurs, the help to raise visibility in the marketplace, build investor and advisor networks, and uncovers new ways to cut business costs. Our four competitors have seen just that happen due to their exposure at the competition. In fact, two of our finalists have already been approached by potential investors and partners just days following the competition.
For the third year, the EEC, Delaware’s first small business incubator located at the NCCCC, partnered with the New Castle County Government, NCC Innovates Program, as well as multiple sponsors, to offer the prize package which included:
- Cash prize of $10,000 from the New Castle County NCC Innovates Program
- $450 incorporation formation package with Harvard Business Services
- 6 month membership in the Emerging Enterprise Center Virtual Incubation Program (valued at $1,800)
- New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Marketing Package (valued at $1,400)
- One year membership in World Trade Center Delaware (valued at $475)
- One year membership in New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (valued at $350)
Each applicant was judged based on a combined score of both their written application and oral pitch. Judging criteria included business feasibility, understanding of market need and opportunity, clear articulation of value proposition, go-to-market strategy and soft skills. Four finalists were then selected to pitch before a live audience and a new panel of judges at the Annual EEC Luncheon, which was held at the Harry’s Savoy Grill and Ballroom in Wilmington. The four finalists included 2M LLC, AnCatt Company, Lignolix, Inc, and Wilminvest, LLC.
The Grand Prize winner was selected based on a combined judge/audience vote (75%/25%). The judges included Keith Ellison (Urban League of Philadelphia Entrepreneurial Center), Holly Flanagan (Gabriel Investments), Mark Olazagasti (InfoSolutions, LLC), and former Swim with the Sharks winner Dr. Sumedh Surwade (SAS Nanotechnologies).
Wilminvest, LLC beat out 25 other applicants and despite a very tough competition, narrowly winning first place for the EEC’s Swim with the Shark Pitch Competition – now in its 7th year with a Grand Prize totaling over $14,000 in cash and services.
Wilminvest, LLC pulls together family and resources to buy and restore houses in the city of Wilmington. The company then provides these homes in rent free short-term leases with the assistance of Delaware State Housing Authority to consumers experiencing substance abuse recovery, mental illness, and chronic veteran homelessness. By pulling together community resources, Wilminvest is investing directly back into our community to help better the economy by getting ‘hard luck’ folks off the streets and into a bed. Two young men, saw a problem, had an idea, and pulled the community together to help solve that problem. With this pitch competition grand prize, Wilminvest plans to reinvest it back into the community by purchasing two additional houses putting them ahead of their projections for the year and helping two more families off the streets and into a home. What a great example of an entrepreneurial ecosystem and “it take a village.”