By Stephen Smoot
Early next month, six local companies will compete in, as Michael Queen describes, “one of the most lucrative and comprehensive opportunities for an entrepreneur and new business start-up.” Much like the popular television program “Shark Tank,” those in this tank will make pitches for an investment.
In this case, a total investment package of $30,000 for the chosen winner, with $10,000 being cash.
The public event, presented by the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, had its genesis in discussions almost four years ago. As Marla Ferree of the Chamber describes, in “November 2019, during the Chamber board planning session, the idea was developed for a ‘Shark Tank’ type event.”
Its purpose aimed “to promote and foster” small business in the area, furthering the core mission of the Chamber.
Initial plans scheduled the event for 2020, but the pandemic and related shutdowns forced a postponement of the event. Frank Sutton from MVB Bank chaired the committee that produced “lots of ideas on how to structure the contest,” whose existence was formally announced in August of 2022 during the annual Chamber dinner.
Earlier this year, Adam Rowh took the chairmanship of the 2023 Tank Committee and held bi-weekly sessions to ensure a successful event. Judges will select an official winner, but a $10 per person entry fee will go towards a cash prize for the “People’s Choice” winner.
“The $10,000 cash prize is always beneficial,” Ferree says, then adds ,”but the additional prize is worth so much more. There will be assistance after the contest for the winner from: Attorneys, Accountants, Financial Advisors, HR consultations, SBA representative to guide them plus a Media Package consisting of: $5,000 media/marketing from WV News, $1,000.00 Marketing from WDTV, and $1,000.00 Marketing from WPDX.”
WBOY will record the pitch presented by each contestant and Michael Queen will serve as the master of ceremonies.
The chamber has selected an impressive array of area contestants. Two, Black and Teal Concepts and Dead Canary Coffee, are in Shinnston. Others include Andrew Walker of Heirloom, Brandon & Lacey Ross from SR Spices LLC, Julie Bearden of GTD Company LLC, and Randy Spellman from Paws Up
Pitches will be judged by some of the state’s best business, financial, and media minds, including Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, Senator Ben Queen, LaReta Lowther, senior vice president of WesBanco Bank, April Kaull, executive director of communications at West Virginia University, and Scott Werdebaugh from Integrity Financial Planning
The Chamber’s long term goal for the event lies in inspiring the small business community. Ferree explained that, “Publicity from the contest will enlighten small businesses owners and entrepreneurs on the opportunities that are available to them from entities throughout the state. These groups have the information, knowledge, and people connect businesses to training, small business loans and the small business ecosystem for support and connections.”