It was a batch of bacon-blue cheese butter that inspired the winners of this year’s LaunchPad small business competition to give their business idea a try.

Now Casco Bay Creamery, co-founded by Alicia Menard, Andrew Menard, Jennell Carter and Sue Knokel, provides over 18 varieties of gourmet flavored butter and cream cheese to roughly 250 retail outlets in 18 states.

But Menard and Carter said they still do much of the portioning and packaging of their products by hand. They said the $50,000 prize would allow the company to purchase an automated system to take its growth to the next level.

“Basically it’s like Lucy and Ethel on the production line,” Menard joked in front of an audience of hundreds shortly before winning the live business pitch competition Tuesday at the University of Southern Maine in Portland for a grand prize of $50,000. The annual competition’s sponsor is Gorham Savings Bank.

The finalists were selected from an applicant pool of over 150 businesses, Gorham Savings said. This is the seventh year the bank has sponsored the annual competition.

The competition’s judges, Safe Handling Inc. co-founder Ford Reiche, Logically CEO and co-founder Chris Claudio and Village Fertility Pharmacy shareholder and board member Catherine Cloudman, said they found Menard and Carter’s argument for automation compelling and saw the potential in their business.

The judges said there was also a lot to like about the other four competitors: CourseStorm of Orono, which provides online tools for class registration; GO Lab of Belfast, which makes nontoxic, renewable, wood fiber insulation; Sidewalk Buttler of Scarborough, which makes cigarette butt receptacles; and Vintage Maine Kitchen of Freeport, which makes small-batch Maine potato chips.

In addition to the $50,000 grand prize, the competition also awarded a $10,000 grant and an additional $10,000 worth of in-kind marketing, business development and public relations services to one of five finalists in a separate contest known as the LaunchPad Emerging Idea Award.

MyBodyModel of Portland, which creates body-positive design templates for do-it-yourself fashion makers of all shapes and sizes, bested fellow finalists Friday of Portland, Kinotek of Orono, Lobster Unlimited of Brewer and OpBox of Portland.

Three Maine middle schools also each won a $1,000 grant in the LaunchPad Junior competition for their innovative and sometimes humorous business ideas, which included a snow-shoveling-for-hire app called Snuber. The winner of bragging rights in an informal audience poll was Saco Middle School for its idea to develop a device that charges cellphones by walking. The other two finalists were Falmouth and Windham middle schools.

Gorham Savings Bank President and CEO Steve deCastro said the bank has awarded over $300,000 to Maine startups through its LaunchPad competitions, which are designed to provide both a community service and a marketing tool for the bank.

“Every business starts with a belief, and with the right boost, who’s to say where it could go?” deCastro said.

This story was updated at 11 a.m. on June 5 to correct which middle school won and which were finalists in the junior competition. 

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