ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County’s innovative entrepreneur accelerator program, “HoCo Higher” ended last week with a pitch competition and three winners who will receive $21,000 in total funding. The 25 entrepreneurs that completed the inaugural class received $5,000 in seed money. HoCo Higher is a joint partnership between County Executive Calvin Ball, M&T Bank and Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA). Photos of the event can be found here.  

Small businesses are the economic engine that pushes Howard County forward and help our community thrive. HoCo Higher has helped entrepreneurs, especially those who are traditionally underserved, reach new heights and access important resources and support structures. We’re thrilled with this inaugural class of innovators, who have come together and really put forward new, thoughtful ideas that we’re excited to see come to life.

Calvin Ball
Howard County Executive

All the entrepreneurs in the class participated in an elimination round pitch competition to determine 5 finalists which included: 

  • Tocar Spa - Stephen Conti | 1st Place - $15k | Healthcare - Massage Therapy 
  • HoCo Pirate Adventures - Chris Fuchs | 2nd Place - $4k | Non-Profit, Education 
  • Mosquito Hunters – Chaz Robinson | 3rd Place - $2k | Pest Control 
  • UPL!FT! - Dr Xavier Bruce | Professional Development Training 
  • Koller Consulting - Sheri Koller | Consulting- Social Work 

Over the past 10 weeks, entrepreneurs followed a curriculum curated by M&T Bank, the region’s top small-business lender. The curriculum included lessons from a diverse set of presenters on legal business formation, obtaining certifications, developing business plans, managing business and personal finances, sourcing capital, pricing strategies, risk management and business insurance, marketing strategies and more. 

The Authority is proud to partner with M&T Bank and the County Executive to support these diligent business owners who worked hard and learned techniques to accelerate their business. This program is a great example of the resources and partnerships available at the Maryland Innovation Center to help current or prospective entrepreneurs grow or start a business and provide opportunities in our community.

Larry Twele
President and CEO, HCEDA

“On behalf of M&T Bank, I want to recognize each of the graduates for completing the first HoCo Higher program and congratulate the finalists who participated in the pitch competition,” said Rosa Scharf, vice president and relationship manager for M&T’s Minority and Women Owned Business Banking team in Greater Baltimore. “I was overwhelmed by the entrepreneurs’ pitches and impressed with their growth as business owners throughout the program. The knowledge they all gained about the financials of their business, sales projections, marketing and much more will benefit each of them along their respective entrepreneurial journey.” 

HoCo Higher
Economic Development
County Executive Calvin Ball

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