Returning to business as usual

Midlothian Chamber sees 2nd competition as emergence from pandemic

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Representatives of the Ready Room accept their first-place honor following Pitch Night, ending the first Midlothian Chamber of Commerce Business Plan Competition finals held at the Midlothian Conference Center in November 2019. The Chamber is preparing for its second competition this spring, with the deadline for entries scheduled for Wednesday.

Just in time for the lifting of the cloud of COVID-19, the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce is giving prospective entrepreneurs an opportunity to get a head start on a return to a post-pandemic normal.

The Chamber is conducting its second contest to judge who has the best business plan. The Midlothian Business Plan Competition is open to anyone in the city who is planning to develop a business plan and open a business in Midlothian. The winner will receive a lucrative cash prize and business services that will assist in moving one’s business idea to the next level.

Angel Biasatti, chair of the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce’s education committee, said the first contest in late 2019 was a success and the post-COVID business climate is locked and loaded to explode in 2021. Once again, more than $10,000 in cash prizes and in-kind services will be awarded.

This year’s Chamber sponsors include Methodist Midlothian Medical Center, Tarleton State University- Midlothian Campus, Frost Bank, First Financial Bank and Omega Airline Software.

In-kind sponsors include A Fairchild, PC, Hardesty Law Firm, First Financial Bank, Paragon Payroll, Diamond Voice Cloud Phone Service, Frost Bank, and the UPS Store.

“We have some strong businesses that believe in giving back to the community and strong Chamber members that are supporting it,” Biasatti said. “I’m excited that businesses want to support future business owners in Midlothian.”

The grand prize winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize plus about $5,000 in in-kind business and support services. The second-place winner will receive a $3,000 cash prize and third place will receive $1,000. Each finalist will also receive in-kind services.

The deadline for entries was scheduled for the close of business Wednesday, March 24 with a $50 application fee. Registration forms were downloadable at the Chamber’s website.

Three finalists will be announced on the Chamber’s Facebook page on April 7 on the Midlothian Chamber website, and a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition among the three will be held before a panel of local judges at the Midlothian Conference Center on Thursday, April 15. The competition will be open to a public audience. The highest-rated team will be announced as the grand prize winner later that evening.

The Midlothian Business Plan Competition was founded in 2019 by the Education Committee of the Midlothian Chamber through a partnership with the City of Midlothian and Economic Development Department with the purpose of giving special recognition to outstanding small business owners and entrepreneurs in the community. The contest has its origins in a similar Chamber contest held in Fort Worth in early 32019.

The first Business Plan Competition was held in November 2019, with The Ready Room winning first place. Azure Kids won second place and The Honeybee was third.

Kyle Kinateder, president and CEO of Midlothian Economic Development, is fully on board with the competition and sees his and the Chamber’s mission of creating local jobs fitting hand-in-glove.

“Ultimately, our focus being on workforce, helping our area residents to obtain and increase skills, the Business Plan Competition is a great opportunity to put those things to use and to help entrepreneurs in starting new businesses, but really putting their training to work,” Kinateder said.

“We believe strongly in having this united workforce approach that we’re doing,” he added. “And so we’ve partnered hand-in-hand with the Chamber. Most of our workforce efforts are happening through the Chamber and we’re doing more to make sure that we pull in our partners at … Navarro College and Tarleton (State University).”

Sharon Price, a member of the Midlothian Chamber’s education committee, is also on the Chamber’s board and executive committee. Price, a certified public accountant, said the contest is an opportunity to provide new businesses with a chance to “put themselves out there” and also show the community as being business-friendly.

“Even though things look so bleak in 2021, a lot of businesses got started last year,” Price said. “I think when people were sent home, they had time to think through their unemployment status or whatever ... There has been a huge surge in interest in starting a new business in the last year. We actually feel with this competition that it’s a great time to reach out to people and let them know they’ve got a lot of great support in the Midlothian business community.”

Kinateder said the different elements of the community — the Chamber, the city and higher education institutions — are working together as a team to help area residents in a way to give the community new opportunities.

“There are resources available for (entrepreneurs) today,” he said. “The easiest way is to reach out to the Chamber and from there we can point them to the different resources available in our community.”

If nothing else, this year’s Business Plan Competition is a chance for the Midlothian business community to leave the doldrums of the COVID-19 pandemic in the past and emerge on the other side with a fresh start.

“We’re excited that a Midlothian entrepreneur is going to win $10,000 in cash and in-kind prizes,” Biasatti added. “That’s exciting for us.”