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“That was such a shock. I wasn’t expecting that,” said Melissa Taylor, who operates the company with husband Eric Taylor.
R3bi made the announcement during a Lamar County Chamber of Commerce Live @ 5 held at the incubator.
“The guys really, really worked hard,” R3bi Director Hank Betke said, giving Eric a fist bump. “They’re on their way.”
The competition garnered 17 entries for two categories: $1,000 for students with an idea and the $10,000 contest for new businesses.
John Wallace, a 10th-grader, won the student competition with his plan for That Nice Young Man Computer Support. The student entries were mixed in with the others, and judges did not know which entries were which. Even with that, his plan came in eighth overall.
“It’s computer support and basically electronic support for the senior population,” he said.
TMPS beat out five other finalists for its $10,000 win. Each business had to submit a pitch on YouTube, which was considered along with a re-evaluation of the business plans to determine the winner. Each of the six stood within a 10-point range of each other.
“Our winner did something I’ve never seen or heard of in a business plan competition,” former R3bi Director Fred Green said. “One of the judges gave him a perfect score.”
Green and Betke stood up front, hiding the front of a giant check. When they turned it around to reveal Taylor’s Mechanical & Piping Solutions on the payee line, the Taylors bent over in shock. Melissa wiped tears from her eyes.
The Taylors plan to use the money for new welding equipment and operational expenses. Melissa said the plan itself took weeks of work and research. The three-and-a-half minute pitch video took about 15 hours to shoot.
“I’m really surprised. I got on YouTube and watched some of the videos. For one person to win, it’s not really fight,” she said. “To win against nonprofits, I feel kind of guilty.”
Competitors included the RISE School of Northeast Texas and Extreme Med Ed.
“Once we get up on our feet, we do plan on donating to some of the nonprofits,” Eric said.
The event included a video presentation with tenants TMPS, Jazzy Frog Web Design and Extreme Med Ed talking about the training and assistance they have received – particularly from Green.
“Without your help, Fred, we wouldn’t have made it this far,” said James Wallace, owner of Jazzy Frog.
Green served as the incubator’s first director, getting the doors open and the organization established. He stepped down as director at the first of the month as former volunteer Betke took over.
“I learned quickly if we said, ‘Fred, go through that wall,’ Fred would do it,” Paris Economic Development Corp. Director Steve Gilbert said.
Only about 20 percent of start-ups remain in business after five years. Incubator graduates have an 88-percent success rate, Green said.
“Tell more would-be entrepreneurs or small business people this is a resource for them,” Gilbert said. “Small businesses create so many jobs in our country.”