Recently, a panel of business experts awarded top prize to two aquaculture entrepreneurs at a first-of-its-kind aquaculture business accelerator pitch-off. In addition to bragging rights, Mathew Moretti, of Bangs Island Mussels in Casco Bay, and Jonathan Turcotte, of Edgecomb’s Glidden Point Oyster Farms, received a cash award of $5,000 and an invitation to the statewide Top Gun Pitch-Off, where they will compete against other emerging businesses for additional prize money and recognition. Glidden Point Oyster Farms plans to invest its winnings in marketing.
The pitch-off event was the culmination of an intensive 15-week aquaculture business development program, which teaches business fundamentals and provides one-on-one mentoring to promising aquaculture companies. The prototype program, named Aquaculture Top Gun 2018, is a collaborative effort, led by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs in partnership with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Maine Aquaculture Association, and FocusMaine. The pitch-off event was sponsored by the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center.
“The organizations that participate and partner with us are crucial in building a community of Maine’s next innovators and entrepreneurs,” said John Pavan, Maine Center for Entrepreneurs program coordinator. “MCE is thrilled to include aquaculture companies among our Top Gun 2018 group of entrepreneurs. Assisting aquaculture companies to scale and grow helps Maine thrive.”
At the pitch-off, each of the 10 graduating aquaculture businesses had five minutes to present a business pitch to a panel of business experts. The panel scored the pitches on presentation, feasibility, scalability, and innovation.
“It was rewarding to see the entrepreneurs develop polished, compelling pitches that are grounded in the strong foundation of the business principles they learned from our accelerator program,” said Chris Vonderweidt, aquaculture program manager for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “There is no question that these businesses are poised for success.”
This aquaculture-specific accelerator program is part of a suite of aquaculture industry growth initiatives that emerged from the nine-month strategic planning process of the FocusMaine Aquaculture Team. The accelerator was designed to create high-quality jobs by equipping small-to-midsized companies with the prerequisite business knowledge needed to establish themselves and grow. Providing $5,000 of business capital to two of these businesses will expedite their growth. Although not all the participants received a cash prize, the participants all left with an improved understanding of business and entrepreneurial principles.
Program partners selected business development program participants based on a competitive application and interview process. The full list of participating aquaculture entrepreneurs included Damariscotta River Distribution, a seafood distributor from the Damariscotta River area expanding into emerging foreign markets.
The Gulf of Maine Research Institute pioneers collaborative solutions to global ocean challenges. Located in Portland, it is dedicated to the resilience of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and the communities that depend on it. For more information, go to gmri.org.