Entrepreneur Contest Provides Jumpstart

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:37 pm

Pragmatic Construction LLC, a newly formed Milwaukee firm dedicated to green building construction and redevelopment, has won the first Launch Angel Competition. The competition sought the best ideas for new businesses that would most benefit southeastern Wisconsin.

The first place prize gives Pragmatic Construction (see accompanying story) access to public relations and marketing advice, legal counsel, accounting services, membership in several business organizations, free advertising and more. The services to jumpstart the business were donated by the competition’s sponsors.

The prize package, valued at more than $15,000, should give Pragmatic an increased chance of success, said Anna Baxter Kirk, creator of the competition and founder of Launchpad MCPR Inc., a Milwaukee-based marketing, communications and public relations firm.

One of the most significant benefits, Baxter Kirk said, is helping introduce the winners to different contacts in the Milwaukee area.

"So much of business in Milwaukee is about relationships," she said. "For the entrepreneur who wins (the competition), they get immediate connections."

The project was launched for the first time last October under the L’entrepreneur name, but was changed to the Launch Angel Competition name to protect copyrights.

Baxter Kirk, who started her company about two years ago, said the idea for the competition came to her when she was looking for a way to give something back to the business community.

"(At first) I thought I’d just give some time, or pro bono work," she said. "I started talking about it with some people I know, and everyone said they wanted to be a part of it. It grew into a bigger idea and kind of snowballed."

Her networking created the Angel Advisors, a group of representatives from many different businesses who helped Baxter Kirk judge the competition. Many of the Angel Advisors also donated prizes to the competition. The diversity of the advisors was crucial to the competition’s success, Baxter Kirk said.

"They really asked questions from many different perspectives," she said. "We had people in human resources, educators and several entrepreneurs. They asked the things I wouldn’t have thought of. It wasn’t a job for just one person."

Dan Meyer, publisher of Small Business Times, was one of the judges of the competition, and SBT donated advertising space as one of the prizes. Because of the publication’s focus on closely held companies of all sizes, Meyer said the competition was a natural fit.

"Everyone has to get their start somewhere," Meyer said. "If we can contribute to new startups and the (business) climate in some small way, everybody wins. If we can increase the pie, everybody benefits."

Pragmatic Construction was a perfect winner, Meyer said, because of its idea of creating green homes and commercial buildings that are more affordable than traditional new construction. Pragmatic hit both of the competition’s criteria, both Meyer and Baxter Kirk said, because it had a sound business plan and its benefit to the region was evident.

"Collectively, they have a plan to make (new) home construction more accessible by bringing down the cost," Baxter Kirk said. "Then they will make it even more affordable by bringing down heating and energy costs."

With energy costs continuing to skyrocket, Meyer said, green buildings will be increasingly attractive to both the residential and commercial market, something Pragmatic is hoping to capitalize upon.

There is a need in the Milwaukee area to encourage and assist as many entrepreneurs as possible, Baxter Kirk said. She plans to continue the Launch Angel Competition for the foreseeable future.

"If I can help an entrepreneur or business that needs help, it’s a pretty big success story, I think," she said. "This is the most satisfying feeling to put this together, to see the positive impact on people with the same dream and give them the launch they need. It’s a great feeling."

While there are many other business awards programs in southeastern Wisconsin for existing businesses, the Launch Angel Competition is unique because it helps a new business get off the ground, said Wendy Baumann, president of the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation. WWBIC donated a prize to the competition, and Baumann volunteered as a judge.

"I hope that we’ll be talking about it 10 years from now, when we can look back on it and say, ‘Look what it’s been able to do,’" she said. "It’s the building of awareness regarding the need for business support and expertise. This is not a hand out, it’s a hand up."

Because of the quality of business plans and ideas submitted to the first Launch Angel Competition, Meyer said he’s excited to see the entries for next year.

"I think as good awards programs get a reputation, the bar is higher each time with who the award goes to," he said. "It seemed to be a home run with the first time, in terms of economic and environmental impact."

Early this summer, a second round of the Launch Angel Competition will launch, Baxter Kirk said. She’s already talked to this year’s sponsors and is in negotiations to add a few more.

A formal announcement of the second-round competition will be made in June, Baxter Kirk said, with the window to submit applications open for about two months. Competitors will be interviewed in the fall, and the next winner will be announced shortly after Jan. 1.

Launch Angel Competition

Winner: Pragmatic Construction LLC

Runners-up: JuJu Gifts, Accessories and Décor and Big Shoes Network

Launch Angel sponsors:

• Launchpad MCPR Inc. • Reinhart Boerner Van Duren S.C.

• Sondra Safer CPA • Park Bank

• Special Editions • Small Business Times

• Succeedia • Ed McGuire/Principal Financial Group

• Briessentials • Weiss Design Studio

• Diversified Management Services

• Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp.

• UWM-Small Business Development Center

• Anonymous small business proponent

May 12, 2006, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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