Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery competition lands $102,000 for start-ups

This semester’s Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery competition drew 16 entrants. Judges gave away $102,000 in prize money to potential business start-ups.

A service to make medical tests more convenient for homebound patients and a company that has made improvements to one of humankind’s oldest tools — the bucket — were the big winners during the ninth round of Salisbury University’s Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery entrepreneurship competition.

Wings of Life Mobile of Salisbury and HUCK Performance Buckets of Ocean City each received $25,000.

Based in Salisbury, Wings of Life Mobile opened its doors less than two months before the competition as the brainchild of local phlebotomist Zandra Cephas. The mobile service allows patients to schedule the collection and testing of blood and other body fluids at home instead of having to venture to area doctors’ offices or medical labs. Collection normally takes less than half an hour, and most tests are completed within 24 hours.

“There is no waiting room. You can rest and relax in your home and have your blood drawn without any hassle,” Cephas said, adding the service is especially convenient for those requiring oxygen tanks, wheelchairs or other devices which can make leaving their homes complicated, or those who must rely on public transportation.

Like other medical laboratories, Wings of Life accepts insurance including Medicare and Medicaid. The service also sells and delivers basic pharmacy items, including compression hoses, incontinence supplies and wound care products.

HUCK Performance Buckets also evolved from ideas on how to make an existing product better.

“Like most utilitarian products, the 5-gallon bucket has been commoditized to the point that, no matter who makes it or where you get it, the bucket is virtually the same,” said founder Joe Schneider. “It’s inexpensive, poorly constructed and comes with no expectation of performance.”

Schneider’s HUCK Bucket changed that. The container is made from DuPont Zytel, a material used in the automobile industry to replace metal parts. Its walls are twice as thick as standard five-gallon buckets, and the handle bulkheads are six times thicker. The buckets also feature “Grippin’ Feet” by Vibram, a company specializing in hiking and hunting footwear, to help ensure the buckets will not slide, “giving the user excellent control over the action of the bucket,” Schneider said. In all, the HUCK Bucket “is extremely durable and more user friendly, and has been rated to hold up to 600 pounds,” he added.

It’s also environmentally friendly — an important point for Schneider. With many of the approximately 400 million standard five-gallon buckets produced annually ultimately ending up in landfills, HUCK Performance Buckets hopes to combat that waste with the construction of a longer-lasting product and by committing to the donation of 1 percent of its gross sales to environmental charities through the non-profit organization 1% for the Planet.

This semester’s Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery competition drew 16 entrants. Judges gave away $102,000 in prize money. In addition to Wings of Life Mobile and HUCK Performance Buckets, winners included:

  • Scrub Nail Boutique — $20,000: This Baltimore-based company, founded by Jasmine Simms, was voted the best nail salon in Baltimore, offering manicure and pedicure subscription services.
  • Bio Research Solutions LLC — $20,000: This Salisbury-based company, founded by prior Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery prize recipient and SU alumnus, Robert Figliozzi, currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, is a biological technology and pharmaceutical company which has developed a way to identify, track and monitor laboratory zebra fish.
  • Zest Tea — $10,000: This Baltimore-based company, founded by James Fayal, is a former Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery prize recipient and winner of the 2015 World Tea Expo Best New Product award. The business wholesales high-caffeine flavored teas and is bringing a canned product to market.
  • MyRoute Apparel — $2,000: This Chincoteague-based company is a resort town custom T-shirt design business which was founded by 15-year-old Trey Lodge though the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

In addition to funding, winners and participants also receive mentoring support from the program’s board. Mentors include business leaders such as Brian Ellis of the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation; Sandy Fitzgerald-Angello of Pohanka Automotive Group of Salisbury; Kathy Kiernan, chair of the Perdue School Executive Advisory Council; David Landsberger; Jean Sewell of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield; and Dave Rommel of Rommel USA, among others. Prior to the competition, businesses received training and support from John Hickman, director of the Small Business Development Center at SU, and Mike Thielke, director of hotDesks.

In addition to judges and business leaders, the competition drew the attention of several local and regional representatives including University System of Maryland Vice Chancellor for Economic Development Tom Sadowski, Maryland Department of Commerce Director of Education and Innovation Sharon Markley, Maryland Senator Jim Mathias, Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, City Administrator Julia Glanz and Wicomico County Council President John Cannon, among others.

This semester, competitors again had the opportunity to record video pitches aboard the STRT1UP Road Show bus, which parked outside SU’s Perdue Hall during the event. The videos will be uploaded to the organization’s YouTube site, where the public may view them and vote on their favorites. Winners receive mentorship and automatic bids into selected venture competitions as part of the Startup Maryland regional initiative. For more information visit startupmd.org.

The five-year Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery program was established in 2013 through a $1 million gift from the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation of Baltimore with a goal of providing $200,000 per year in funding for entrepreneurs in the mid-Atlantic. During the awards presentation for this round, Carole Ratcliffe announced that the foundation had given a second $1 million gift to SU to continue the program through at least 2023.

For more information call 410-546-4325 or visit the Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery website at shorehatchery.salisbury.edu.


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