Liftoff Houston Business Plan Competition

Office of Business Opportunity

Liftoff Houston Press Release

Mayor Turner Launches 10th Annual Liftoff Houston Startup Business Plan Competition

July 27, 2022 — Applications are now open for the Liftoff Houston Startup Business Plan Competition, where three winners will each receive $10,000 in seed money to fund their dreams of entrepreneurship. Applications must be received by 2 pm on Friday, Aug. 19.

The competition, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is sponsored by Capital One Bank and administered by the Houston Public Library (HPL) and the Office of Business Opportunity (OBO). Since its inception, Capital One has invested more than $280,000 in startup funding to winners in three categories – Innovation, Product and Service.

“For 10 years, Liftoff Houston has empowered participants to achieve financial mobility through entrepreneurship,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “They have become key drivers to the success of Houston’s economy, and they have contributed to our communities by creating jobs and by providing much needed goods and services.”

To be eligible for the competition, applicants must live in, and operate their businesses within the city limits of Houston. The business should be for-profit, in operation for less than one year, and have verifiable revenue that does not exceed $10,000. Those who are not eligible to compete can participate in the Educational Pathway, which allows access to all educational and mentorship components of the program.

Upon acceptance into Liftoff Houston, participants attend workshops over a 4-month period that cover essential business topics including business planning, marketing, financing and pitching. Participants also receive additional support from professional mentors from SCORE Houston and Capital One Bank to further refine their business plans, which are required to advance to the final round of the competition.

The event culminates in Pitch Day on Nov. 5, where three businesses in each contest category are selected to present their business plan to a panel of judges. All who fulfill the requirements of the Educational Pathway receive a certificate of completion.

Mayor Sylvester Turner, joined by HPL Deputy Director Nicole Robinson, Capital One Bank Market President Yasmin Huebinger, and OBO Director Marsha Murray, recognized Liftoff Houston alumni who have grown their businesses past the startup phase: 2019 Service Category winner Sherhara Downing of SpeakHaus and business partner Christa Clarke, 2016 Service Category winner Jennifer Thai of Awesome Bites Co., and 2018 Innovation Category winner Alphonso Roundtree of Social Bevy.

“This year’s milestone competition will prove to be another exciting year of opportunity for Houstonians who are ready to move their plans of business ownership forward,” said Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, director of the Houston Public Library. “We are pleased to join OBO, Capital One and a host of other partners in supporting their development and dreams through the provision of free library services and access to business and investment reference resources, state of the art technology, and high-speed Wi- Fi.”

Since its inception, more than 15,000 individuals have participated in Liftoff Houston. Of all competition finalists, 27 winners have started businesses in retail, merchandise, labor, consulting, software, hardware, market businesses, hospitality, tourism, health and fitness, education, finance, technology, and logistics.

Data collected from the 2021 competition showed Liftoff Houston made an impact in populations that have been historically marginalized. Of all participants, 96% identified as people of color, 70% were female, 56% had no college degree, and 41% made below $30,000.

Also in 2021, all winners were women:

  • Alina Kravchenko of TonerBum (Innovation), a patented glute and leg-toning dumbbell ergonomically designed to fit behind the back of the leg;
  • Krystle Hodge of SafetyKay, LLC (Product), comprising safety kits and videos that teach children critical safety skills; and
  • Clara Orlean of ClaraTech (Service), in-person technology training that assists older adults with technology consulting sessions and workshops.

“As we celebrate a decade of Liftoff Houston, we look forward to making an even greater impact for Houston’s aspiring entrepreneurs,” said OBO Director Marsha Murray. “This competition will provide you with a clear roadmap to help you achieve your goals of succeeding as a small business owner.”

To apply for Liftoff Houston, go to www.liftoffhouston.com. Also follow @liftoffhouston on Facebook and Instagram.

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