EASTON, MD – A recent Harvard Business Review blog described “action” as what differentiates an entrepreneur from an inventor. Three Maryland entrepreneurs were recently awarded a total of $35,000 to turn their innovations into business enterprises on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The startup cash and services were awarded through the inaugural Eastern Shore Business Plan Competition, presented by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC) of Easton, Md., and Maryland Capital Enterprises (MCE) of Salisbury, Md. The winners were announced at the Dorchester County Economic Development Technology Summit.
The winners are:
- First place, receiving $20,000 in cash and services: Triea Systems, LLC of Bethesda, Md.
- Second place, receiving $10,000 in cash and services: Allegiance NanoSolutions of Baltimore, Md.
- Third place, receiving $5,000 in cash and services: Maryland Mycology of Easton, Md.
- Other finalists honored were: Cascade Biotherapeutics of Washington, D.C., and Innovative Bios of Baltimore. Md., who both received $1,000.
As the top winner, Triea Systems LLC is eligible to compete as a semi-finalist in the General Category of the InvestMaryland Challenge, vying for a top prize of $100,000. “We had a great response in this first year of the business plan competition,” says Mike Thielke, executive director of the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC). “The quality of the applicant ideas was incredible. To be able to help bring these ideas into fruition has been rewarding, and is at the heart of what ESEC is all about,” he adds.
“I was excited by the response to this opportunity to attract business growth on the Shore,” said MCE Executive Director Hayley Gallagher. “It was also exciting to have the support of top businessmen like Dick Bernstein and DEBED Secretary Christian Johansson who were among the judges.”
The award winners
Triea Systems, LLC has developed the technology to capture wasted heat and transfer it to a proprietary heat exchanger to dramatically reduce energy costs. The first Eastern Shore application for the technology will be with poultry growers (chicken farms) using composting poultry litter as the heat source. Future prospects include dairy farmers and nurseries that operate greenhouses.
The Triea Systems heat exchangers absorb the heat and transfer it, permitting the heat to be pumped into the poultry houses through air handlers. With this exclusive system, a poultry house should have little if any need to burn propane.
“This exclusive system does not change the original physical characteristics of the heat source, “ says Matt McDaniel, Triea Systems director, Poultry Division. “The poultry litter can be spread on farmers’ fields or sold to others as fertilizer so they effectively monetize the value of the litter twice,” he adds.
Current data collected by a pilot site in West Virginia reported a 65 to 75% reduction in heating costs yet leadership at Triea Systems feel that they can do even better. The startup cash from the business plan competition will be used to fabricate an even more efficient heat exchanger at a manufacturing plant which will open in Salisbury, Md. “Our motto is prove it, then improve it,” says Jim O’Brien, president of Triea Systems. O’Brien developed the concept for the heat exchanger by taking existing technology from alternative energy sources like geothermal and solar power to create a more affordable option that could pay for itself in a shorter timeframe.
For the second place winner Allegiance NanoSolutions of Baltimore, the technology developed in their project was born out of identifying a void in the market for apparels that are water repellent, anti-microbial, stain resistant and at the same time, are breathable. Company co-founders Trupti Dhami, Ph.D., and Hemil Dhami, Ph.D., are avid runners and enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. They found their quest to explore the outdoors cut short by inclement weather conditions several times. To overcome this, they had to compromise with either going for a hard-shell waterproof apparel or soft-shell, breathable, less waterproof apparels. They recognized a need for a water resistance technology that would allow the fabric to breathe, is lightweight, transparent and durable.
In last two years, Allegiance NanoSolutions developed a proprietary and innovative nanotechnology-based super hydrophobic (SH) coating that offers water repellent, anti-icing, anti-fouling and self-cleaning properties. Allegiance NanoSolutions is currently field-testing their product on sports apparel and military gear, and going forward, intent to introduce this technology in the medical and chemical industries.
Prize winnings from the business plan competition will be used to support ongoing and further field trials of the product. In 2013, Allegiance NanoSolutions plans to successfully complete the field-testing and open a commercial nanotechnology-based coating manufacturing facility on the Eastern Shore. “The business plan competition was an exciting and challenging experience,” says Hemil. “The entire process was a positive one in many ways. It was an upliftment that exposed us to other parts of Maryland, and we met people who we can work with as we begin our work on the Eastern Shore,” he adds.
Third place winner Ian Stenzel was in college when the idea for his business developed. “I was studying philosophy and other subjects, and was thinking about how I could make my mark by making a difference,” he says. Interestingly enough the Easton business Maryland Mycology is not simply an agribusiness focused on the local production and sale of gourmet and exotic mushrooms.
“It’s not like I dreamed of mushroom farming as a kid, it’s just something that evolved from my desire to help. The dream is to use Maryland Mycology as a launching platform for all sorts of projects to help the environment and the economy,” says Stenzel. “Mushrooms are an oddly under-utilized plant. One of the many things I’d like to study is the impact that mushrooms can have as natural biological filter for farm run-off. If there is a problem, odds are, nature already has a solution. There’s no need to go through the trouble and expense of altering something that wasn’t originally intended for purposes such as oil clean-up, when there already exists organisms in nature that perform these functions.” he adds.
Stenzel will use his prize winnings to purchase laboratory equipment and new cultures of mushrooms. He is currently looking for warehouse space on the Eastern Shore so that he can harvest in larger quantities and expand his research. Stenzel harvested his first several pounds of mushrooms at the end of November.
Founded in 2006, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center works to develop and enhance an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ESEC provides training, services and programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by creating greater access to capital, and offering programs that develop entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Included are ShoreVenture, a comprehensive 10-week entrepreneur-training program, annual business plan and student plan competitions, and an annual entrepreneur conference.
In 2012, ESEC launched “hotDesks,” providing co-working spaces for independent professionals. The first location opened in Salisbury with a second location to be announced on the Eastern Shore. For more information on the business plan competition or ESEC, call (410) 770-9330 or visit ventureahead.org.
Maryland Capital Enterprises (MCE) is a private, non-profit microenterprise development organization based in Salisbury that has been serving the Eastern Shore of Maryland since 1998. It provides business consulting, training, and loans to assist small businesses. It is certified by the US Treasury Department as a Community Development Financial Institution and acts as a micro-lending intermediary fir the SBA, USDA, and the State of Maryland. Last year, MCE expanded its service area to include providing small business loans in the Baltimore – Annapolis area and opened an office in Baltimore. For additional information regarding our small business loan program contact us at 410-546-1900 or visit www.marylandcapital.org