Seven businesses vied for the top spot in the 2017 Catapult Business Competition, with Smart Shelf LLC, an incubation client at The Underground Business Incubator in St. Clair County winning first-place and taking home the $5,000 grand prize.

The final round of competition was held as part of the 6th Annual Regional Summit, hosted by the I-69 Thumb Region at the Lapeer Country Club. Cash prizes of $3,000 and $1,000, respectively, were awarded to second-place winner Town to Town Gourmet Pastries (Shiawassee County) and third-place finisher Thumb Roast Coffee (Sanilac County).

Each of the seven competing businesses advanced to the finals after winning the county-level contests. The I-69 Thumb Region includes Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron and Tuscola counties.

The other contestants were: Happy Little Greens Farm (Genesee County); Simply Enjoyable Snacks (Lapeer County); Imperial Sauces (Tuscola County); and Kyle’s Kindling (Huron County).

Judging the final round were: Dom Holmes, Manager of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Automation Alley; Neal Bishop, Area Manager, Local Government and Community Affairs, International Transmission Company; and Peggy Nolde, Director, Genesee County Equalization Board.

“It’s always exciting to be part of the small business competitions in our region such as GreenLight Port Huron and Catapult.  It's even more rewarding when we see our local competitors win additional funding and validation for their business concepts outside of region," said Tina Frazer, EDA Marketing Manager and Moderator of the Regional Catapult competition.  "There were several great business pitches from I-69 Thumb Region entrepreneurs at yesterday's event.  In my eyes, they are all winners and I hope they continue to work toward product launch or growing their small business ventures."  

Director of Entrepreneurial Services at The Underground, Quentin Bishop, added how proud he is to have Smart Shelf representing both the county and the new regional  business incubator.  "Smart Shelf is one of five clients in the incubation program that have an advisory board wrapped around them to assist them with their business venture.  We take the incubation process very seriously at The Underground, and work hard to help our clients reach milestones, overcome obstacles and obtain funding."  For more information about The Underground space or programs, visit:  www.startunderground.com        

The competition was created in 2016 to help entrepreneurs and small-business owners reach the next stage in growing their businesses. The prize money is designed to help winning contestants retain and grow Michigan businesses by providing capital to launch, expand production or hire staff.

The half-day regional summit was also used to recap major projects and successes of 2017, and feature panel discussions on development tools and incentives, and housing development in the seven-county region.

The I-69 Thumb Region is a partnership of the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership, Flint & Genesee Chamber, Lapeer Development Corporation, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County, Sanilac & Huron County Economic Development Corporation and Tuscola County Economic Development Corporation.