Startups

Meet the Howard County companies that won HoCo Higher’s pitch competition — and $25,000

AppleCore's Bake Shoppe, American Bully Manufacturing and Natoya Reid, DMD won thousands on top of the $5,000 they and 14 other businesses each received for completing the HoCo Higher accelerator program.

Members of HoCo Higher's second cohort.

(Courtesy photo)

A dentist’s practice, contract manufacturing firm, and bakery beat out two of its 14 fellow HoCo Higher accelerator cohort members to earn a total of 25 grand in prize money.

The three businesses won those funds through a pitch competition that essentially concluded the second iteration of the accelerator, which Howard County’s public-private Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) created last year in partnership with M&T Bank and County Executive Calvin Ball. The accelerator arose out of a collective goal to fuel the growth of small businesses — especially those created by underrepresented Black, Brown and women founders.

The five-contestant pitch competition was held to determine who received funding from an additional $25,000 prize pool. The winners were:  :

  • Natoya Reid, DMD, LLC, a Nottingham-based a dental practice that won the $15,000 first-place prize
  • American Bully Manufacturing, a product design and manufacturing company from Annapolis Junction that earned $5,000 in prize money
  • AppleCore’s Bake Shoppe, a Black woman-owned bakery that also earned a $5,000 prize

17 entrepreneurs participated in the ten-week accelerator program, through which they each received $5,000 in seed funding.

“HoCo Higher is an innovative program that has helped entrepreneurs, especially those who are traditionally underserved, reach new heights and access important resources and support structures,” said Ball in a statement. “We’re thrilled with this second class of changemakers who have come together and put forward new, thoughtful ideas that we’re excited to see come to life.”

The program started in 2021 with a cohort of 25 entrepreneurs. M&T Bank runs the program curriculum and covers finances, legal business formation and pricing strategy consultation, among other facets.

“This second cohort of HoCo Higher entrepreneurs has helped raise the level of our program, and we look forward to using what we’ve learned from this group to make the program even better for the next cohort of business owners,” said Rosa Scharf, a Baltimore-area-based M&T Bank vice president whose team focuses on businesses from underrepresented founders, in a statement. “We know the insights gained from the accelerator program will help fuel the growth of businesses owned by minorities, women and people of color, [as well as] contribute to the generational wealth of those entrepreneurs and their families and spur economic activity throughout Howard County.”

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Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-
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