Sunmark Startup Grant finalists

sunmark startup grant badgeWe had 36 projects apply for the AOA/Sunmark Startup Grant. And if we had the money, we'd give a $1500 push to a bunch of them. Really -- there were a lot of worthy projects. Thank you to everyone who applied.

But we can choose only one. And to reach that decision, we needed to narrow the field down to three finalists. Two of the spots have been picked via crowd voting. The third spot is a pick by the Editors.

And here are the finalists...

Finalists chosen by the crowd

More than 2,300 votes were cast in the process of selecting the crowd's picks. The two winners:

The Radix Ecological Sustainability Center
From the Radix Center's application: "We are requesting funding to create a 2000 gallon recirculating aquaculture system. Being both environmentally educational and economically functional, it will serve as an exciting model of an ecologically regenerative micro-industry."

Fazana Saleem-Ismail's birthday parties for homeless children project
From its application: "I want to host personalized birthday parties for children living in homeless shelters ... The joy in my little girl's eyes evident during each party is something I wanted to replicate in the eyes of children whose lives are in a state of flux. There is a lot of focus on homeless children during the holidays in December but a birthday is a very special day for any child because it is his/her day to shine."

These projects were the clear favorites of the crowd voting -- Radix got almost 26 percent of the votes, and the birthday party project got almost 22 percent.

Editors' pick

This was tough. There were a bunch of interesting projects and we would have loved to send many of them on to the finals.

We wanted to include a project for which the grant would make a significant difference. We're sure that all the projects could use the money, but we were looking for one where the money could potentially push the project up another level. And some of the projects -- to the credit of their creators -- already have significant momentum. We wanted to find a project that would really feel the push.

After a lot of discussion, we ultimately chose:

Co-Original Creations: Troy's local cheesecake
From the application by Co-Original Creations' Beverly Carrubba:

Though over the past few years I have tirelessly worked to develop unusual and exciting cheesecake flavors and to share them with close friends and family, I -- as a home-based business -- am not able to sell the to the public. I am in need of an inspected, certified commercial kitchen facility. A friend recently connected me with the Italian Community Center in Troy and, upon approval from the board and acquisition of the necessary capital, I will be able to rent space in their kitchen as needed (we are discussing an hourly rental agreement). This will allow me to sell my cheesecakes to various individuals and establishments who have approached me requesting to purchase them.

We ended up picking Co-Original for a few reasons:
+ Beverly's cake flavors sound interesting (and fun), among them: "Red Rooibos, Red Rooibos," "Lavender & Vanilla Bean," and "Brown Ale & Butterscotch."
+ We can see how renting space in a commercial kitchen could be a big boost to the business -- expanding both volume and where the product can be sold.
+ We liked that Beverly already has a little bit of momentum, but some attention and coaching from the judges could really help her pick up speed.


The three finalists will be meeting with business/creativity coach Janet Tanguay this week at the Albany/Colonie Chamber of Commerce to help them develop and arrange their ideas. Next week, they'll be presenting to our panel of judges:

+ Lorraine Murphy -- owner of Bettie's Cakes.

+ Blake Hanen -- co-founder of

+ Lissa D'Aquanni -- former small business owner and director of community relations at the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region.

The judges will choose the winner. We're excited to see what happens.

Thank you again to everyone who took the time enter and vote. It's been great to see what so many interesting people are working on.

If you'd like to contact any of the projects to talk about investing or helping in some way, please let us know -- we'll be happy to connect you.

The Sunmark Startup Grant is made possible by Sunmark Federal Credit Union.


Can we see a breakout of the voting?

Great choices - I look forward to hearing the finalists present next week.

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