Microfinance members at the Downtown Startup Challenge.Front: Kennard Fung '21, John Dennis '20, Sarah Magee '18. Back: Chris Browne '20, Henry Cohen '20, Craig Engert '21, Tyler Lipkind '21.

The Hamilton Microfinance Club traveled to the thINCubator in Utica on Oct. 4 to watch finalists do their pitches in the Downtown Startup Challenge Finals. This was the conclusion of a three-phase process that began in June where numerous individuals and groups with innovative business concepts gathered and competed to win a grand prize of $30,000. This challenge was aimed at spurring economic growth in downtown Utica and Rome by aiding and inspiring people to pursue a vision of creating a startup company.

The finals consisted of three groups who had passed the previous two phases. Those included applying to the challenge; attending an 8-week startup boot camp to learn how to formulate a team, create a business plan, and deliver a pitch; and successfully delivering their pitches to a panel of judges after being selected as semi-finalists.

 The winners of the challenge were Brian Donovan and Mathew Labella of The Balanced Chef (a Utica company that prepares fresh, never frozen, meals that are portioned and packed individually).  The other two finalists were Main Street Market (coffee shop and emporium in Rome that features craft products unique to New York) and Utica Brewing Company (a family-friendly brewpub serving high quality, local craft beer)

While on-site, students had a great opportunity to discuss the various aspects and qualities needed to run a successful business with local residents and entrepreneurs. In addition, students experienced “Shark Tank” style business pitches within the thINCubator space. It also provided a chance meet with ThiNCUbator director Ryan Miller to talk about potential clients in the Greater Utica and Rome areas.

The Hamilton Microfinance Group is a student-run organization whose goal is to further advance economic growth and stability in the Greater Utica area by providing small business loans to individuals who are not qualified for traditional bank loans. These loans provide entrepreneurs the chance to create their own credit history and formulate or increase borrowing power. For more information, please contact micro@hamilton.edu.


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