South Portland show gives businesses a chance to pitch

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Start-up business owners can cash in on a locally produced reality TV show.

“Startup South Portland,” a competitive show that features a series of business pitches, will launch at 6 p.m. Sept. 13 in council chambers at City Hall. 

The show was established by the city, its Economic Development Committee and Portland-based Opticliff Law, and will provide an opportunity to learn and earn while the public watches.

Businesses with ties to South Portland, Scarborough, Westbrook and Cape Elizabeth that have less than $100,000 in annual revenue can apply to compete on the show, which is scheduled for three consecutive Wednesdays. Each show will last about two hours.

Adam Nyhan, an attorney with Optficliff Law and a resident of South Portland, said the idea was born in a conversation he had early this year with Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director Joshua J. Reny, and Ross Little, a member of the Economic Development Committee.

Nyhan said businesses accepted for the contest will have one or two representatives make a five-minute pitch. The contestants will be questioned by a panel of judges, who will also score the businesses and offer advice. The event is open to the public and will be taped and broadcast live on local access television in South Portland.

Nyhan said the pitch must include a PowerPoint presentation that answers core questions about the business, but “we give them a lot of room for creativity.”

Winners and the runners-up from the first two evenings will compete in the finale on Sept. 27.  Venues for the second and third contests have not been finalized, but Nyhan said they would like to schedule one evening at Southern Maine Community College and another at one of the city’s major employers. 

The contest could run longer if 20 or more companies are chosen to participate, Nyhan said. In that case, the finale would be held at a later date.

Winners of each evening’s contest will receive a game show-style oversized check for $750. Runners-up will receive $250. 

The grand prize at the final competition will be $1,500. The runner-up will receive $500.

The prize money is being provided by People’s United Bank.

Nyhan said the contest is the first of what organizers hope will be an annual series. 

The nonprofit Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development will provide some free pitch training so contestants can prepare for the event.

Nyhan said eight businesses had signed up as of last week. He wouldn’t reveal their names, but said the businesses are from the food and beverage sectors, including one that makes a beer product; a business that is combining a hardware/software product; a business that manufactures a skin-care product; a graphic design firm, and a company that wants to bring another co-working space to the area.

Judges will include seasoned entrepreneurs, local investors, attorneys with experience with business start-ups, and economic development leaders.

Interested businesses can apply using the link on the Startup South Portland Facebook page at

Regardless of the prize money, Nyhan suggested contestants are participating for other reasons.

“Making a formal pitch is something a lot of people have never done before,” he said. “It gives people a chance to get feedback from other companies. That feedback is invaluable.”

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.