Five companies received monetary prizes after winning a “shark tank” style pitch competition in Howard County’s 10-week entrepreneur accelerator program, HoCo Higher: The Laundry Basket, Tutoring with a Twist, Tidy Milso, Candelicioso, and The Lotus Legacy were all finalists among the 19 entrepreneurs completing the program this year.

HoCo Higher was spearheaded by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball in partnership with the Howard County Economic Development Authority and M&T Bank. The program for small businesses and entrepreneurs provides the critical training and support required for building more opportunities for underserved markets in the county.

In its first three cohorts, more than 60 small businesses received more than $300,000 in support. In addition to the pitch competition winners, each participant received $5,000 in seed funding.

All the entrepreneurs in the class participated in an elimination round pitch competition to determine five finalists, which included:
● The Laundry Basket | 1st Place | $2,000 | personal services
● Tutoring with a Twist | 2nd Place | $1,000 | professional services
● Tidy Milso | 3rd Place | $500 | professional services
● Candelicioso | retail
●The Lotus Legacy | financial services

During the past 10 weeks, entrepreneurs followed a curriculum curated by M&T Bank. The curriculum included lessons from a diverse set of presenters on legal formation, business planning, obtaining certifications, managing business and personal finances, sourcing capital, pricing strategies, risk management and business insurance, marketing strategies and more.

“This cohort of HoCo Higher entrepreneurs has elevated our program to new heights, and we eagerly anticipate leveraging the knowledge gained from this group to enhance the program even further for the next cohort of business owners,” said M&T Bank Vice President and Small Business Ambassador Jim Peterson.

“We firmly believe that the insights gleaned from the accelerator program will serve as a powerful catalyst, propelling the growth of businesses particularly those owned by minorities, women and people of color,” Peterson said. “By nurturing these entrepreneurs, we are not only contributing to the prosperity of their families and the accumulation of generational wealth, but also igniting economic activity across Howard County.”