It All Starts With An Idea

The Program

Hands Up Lake County is a small business competition that encourages and nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit in the community. Selected participants will fine-tune their business ideas and business plans and receive training and follow-up support. Thirteen (13) small businesses will be selected in the Established Business category and seven (7) businesses will be selected in the Startup Business category. All businesses in both categories will compete in a “mini-competition” from which five (5, in the Established Business category) and three (3, in the Startup Category) will be selected to advance to a final competition and a chance to win cash awards totaling $150,000.

There are 4 phases in the small business competition.

  • The application Review: In this stage, all applications submitted by the May 31, 2024, deadline are reviewed by the Board of Directors (or a committee thereof) of the non-profit 1Team 1Dream. In 2024, a total of 20 applicants will be selected: 13 in the Established Business Category and 7 in the Startup Business Category. A maximum of 2 co-owners may attend the workshop.
  • The workshop/business plan training: In this phase, the 20 selected applicants must attend an in-person 1-day training preparatory to the mini competition. In the training, applicants will learn how to write and present a business plan for the next phase, the mini competition.
  • The mini competition: In the mini competition, 3 judges will evaluate the 20 on-stage presentations and select 5 small businesses in the Established Business Category and 3 in the Startup Business Category who will advance to the final competition. A maximum of 2 co-owners may present their presentation.
  • The final competition: In the final competition, a new set of judges will evaluate the onstage presentations of the finalists and decide placement. In this phase, all applicants will receive a cash award. The amount received is determined by the judges. A maximum of 2 co-owners may present their presentation.

How It Works

The competition provides a unique experience for the participants.

They have the opportunity to get funding for their business ideas.

They get invaluable feedback on their business plan.

They get the exposure to the right audience and expand their network.

They learn more and acquire new talent and skillset.

Cash Prizes

The participants of the competition have the chance to win cash prizes, which he or she can use to jumpstart his business plan.

Established Businesses

1st prize
2nd prize | 2 winners, $20K each
3rd prize | 2 winners, $15K each

Start-up Businesses

1st prize
2nd prize | 2 winners, $10k each

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who is responsible for the Hands Up Lake County small business competition?
A. The Board of Directors including founders Maryann Schmid and Olga Martin Steele.

Q. Where does the money for the cash awards come from?
A. Donors, mostly from within the County, including the business community, banks and credit unions, cities and county, and many individuals and friends of the Board of Directors who also donate their time and personal resources.

Q. What are the eligibility requirements?
A. All Lake County residents who are 18 years or older who have an idea for a startup business or who own an established small Lake County business are eligible to apply.

Q. Are there any restrictions I should be aware of?

  1.  Due to the Federal cannabis laws, we are not accepting cannabis-related businesses or proposed businesses.
  2. Non-profits are not eligible to apply.

Q. Are there limitations on how the cash awards may be used?

  1. Cash awards must be used for the purposes specified by those that proceed to the final competition.
  2. Winners must provide a status report at 6 and 12 months and provide proof of how the funds were used.

Q. Does the business have to be a storefront in Lake County?
A. Not necessarily. The owner must be a resident doing business in the County either online, in a storefront, or mobile unit

Q. Is there an application fee or charge to participate?
A. No. You are, however, required to attend the 1-day training & follow-up competitions.

Q. How do I apply for the Hands Up Lake County opportunity?
A. Only online applications are accepted. A fillable application is on this website.

Q. When can I apply?

Q. What is the process of the competition?
A. There are 2 categories and 2 competitions, and a multi-phased process as follows:

ESTABLISHED BUSINESS: An established business has been in operation for 1 year or more.

STARTUP BUSINESS: A startup business has a documented plan to start a business or has been in business for up to 1 year.

In Phase 1, applications received by the deadline will be reviewed. Thirteen (13) applicants will be selected for the Established Business category. Seven (7) applicants will be selected for the Startup Business category. All MUST proceed to phase 2 to stay in the competition.

Phase 2 is a mandatory 1-day training. All selected participants must attend the training to proceed with the program. This will be held on June 29, Saturday, at Lakeport City Hall.

Phase 3 is the mini competition. During the mini competition, all participants in the 1-day training will present their business plans to a panel of judges who will select the finalists in each category (5 in the Established Business and 3 in the Startup Business category) for a total of 8 finalists. This will be held on July 27, Saturday, at Lakeport City Hall.

Phase 4 is the final leg of the competition. In this phase, finalists MUST attend a pitch lab on August 24 and a dress rehearsal on October 4, followed by the final competition, which is on October 6. Dates, times, and locations of the pitch lab, dress rehearsal, and other details will be announced.

Q. Will there be follow-up training prior to the final competition?
A. Yes. There will be a pitch lab (date & location TBD). Selected applicants will receive 1 hour of individual training.

Q. If I applied last year, can I re-apply this year?
A. Yes. You may reapply if you were NOT a winner in any of the previous years’ competitions.

Q. Do all eight (8) finalists receive a cash award?
A. Yes. In 2024, cash prizes are as follows:

Established Businesses:
1st Prize: $40,000
2nd Prize: $20,000 each, 2 winners
3rd Prize: $15,000 each, 2 winners

Startup Businesses:
1st Prize: $15,000
2nd Prize: $10,000 each, 2 winners

Q. Will there be follow-up requirements for winners of the competition?
A-1. Winners must complete and submit status reports at 6 and 12 months on a form to be provided. Winners must use the funds received for the purposes described in their application and return funds if, for any reason, the business does not proceed.
A-2. Winners are expected to participate in surveys authorized by 1Team 1Dream.
A-3. 1st prize winners will participate in video and other media as may be required.

Q. If I have further questions?
Email Olga Steele at [email protected] or by text at 916-849-8170 should you have any questions.

Who Should Apply?
Anyone who believes in and loves Lake County; is open to learning and growing through competition; has a dream to be in business in Lake County; has a creative business idea and the ability and stamina it takes to make it in business; has what it takes to pitch a business idea to others; AND who can use a financial boost to kick-start a business or take an existing small business to the next level is encouraged to apply.

1Team 1 Dream 2023 Hands Up Gala Event

Hands Up Lake County Journey: Catherine Ann Reese

Hands Up Lake County Journey: Melinda Price

Hands Up Lake County Journey: Baylee Ann Grove

2021 Winners

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