ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. – Two businesses housed inside of Alexander City’s business incubator, the Lake Martin Innovation Center, competed last Thursday in the Alabama Launchpad Auburn Regional Startup Competition.  Beyond Home Care and JC Golf Info were two of nearly a dozen startup companies that pitched for the chance to advance in the competition that awards $100,000 to help fund the businesses.

Beyond Home Care, an in-home care service led by founder and CEO Kelly Adams, was one of six teams to advance to the semifinal round that will trim the field down to four ahead of April 4 finale event.

The competition was made up of teams from Chambers, Lee, Macon, Russell and Tallapoosa counties, the five counties that entries must reside in to be eligible for the Auburn Regional. Teams had ten minutes to pitch their ideas and business plans to the four industry-professional judges.

“It’s very validating,” said Adams. “It’s one thing for you to believe in your business and see “the vision” but it’s entirely different for someone else to see it, especially with the caliber of judges at this event. The competitors were all so well prepared, and their concepts were so innovative and unique. Just to be among the finalist for the next round is an honor.”

Making it to the pitch stage, however, was no easy task.

“This is my first time to do a pitch competition, and it’s been a lot of work to prepare,” added Adams. “The first round consisted of an application, a three-minute video pitch, financial projections, a resume and customer testimonials. The second phase was a live, 10-minute pitch followed by a ten-minute question and answer period from the judges. If you’ve ever seen Shark Tank, it’s the same concept.”

Although Adams and the Beyond Home Care team will not know their ultimate fate in the competition’s next phase for several more weeks, she believes taking part in the program has been a valuable experience to this point.

“The process has really pushed me outside my comfort zone, but it’s been a great learning opportunity,” said Adams, noting also that the support structure at the Lake Martin Innovation Center has been outstanding. “I first found out about this competition through the Chamber of Commerce and then attended a meeting at the Innovation Center. Being part of the Innovation Center has been such an asset throughout this competition both from support and resources. I was able to utilize the board room to hold practice pitches as well as lean on the Chamber staff for feedback as we worked through the different phases of competition. Not to mention the connections I have made by simply being part of the Innovation Center have been invaluable.”

The other local participant, JC Golf Info, is a joint venture between Innovation Center-based WisePoint LLC and Dave Jennings, head coach of the Central Alabama Community College men’s golf team. JC Golf Info is a soon-to-be released social networking tool designed to connect and educate those involved in Junior College golf, such as coaches, players and prospects. Although they didn’t make it through to the competition’s next phase, their team is already making moves for the future.

“The Launchpad competition was a great experience even though we didn’t make the second cut,” said WisePoint’s Jeff Kirk. “We had just started the concept phase of JC Golf Info when we learned of the competition, but decided to try it anyway. This really kicked our planning into overdrive and forced us to solidify concepts quickly and verify all of our research. After hearing the judges feedback, we felt even more confident than the round before. We’d love to have won it all, but very glad we entered the competition.”

As for what’s next for the fledgling startup?

“We plan to enter the statewide Alabama Launchpad competition next month, and we’re pushing forward to go live with the product in December at the Golf Coaches of America Association conference.”

One year into the existence of the Lake Martin Innovation Center, Alexander City Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Ed Collari, who is tasked with overseeing the facility, is encouraged by seeing this sort of drive from LMIC-based businesses.

“It’s fantastic to see businesses and individuals that are housed here at the Innovation Center successfully compete in programs like Alabama Launchpad,” said Collari. “Not only is a great recognition for the resources we can help provide here, but it’s a testament to the sustainability of these startups and their potential to positively impact the community through job creation and economic development. We’ll continue to do anything within our power to help bring opportunities like this to the forefront.”

The Lake Martin Innovation Center is a partnership between the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce and USAmeriBank. The 17,000 square foot facility, located at 175 Aliant Parkway off of Highway 280, is home to the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce and features office suites for new and/or growing small businesses, plus co-working memberships. To learn more, visit www.lakemartininnovationcenter.com or call (256) 234-3461 to schedule a visit.

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