Sarah Gantz/Staff Writer, The Baltimore Business Journal April 27, 2012
One of Baltimore’s biggest health systems is taking on the role of mentor to businesses trying to gain their footing in the industry. LifeBridge Health took three small businesses under its wing as part of a competition for early-stage businesses run by women and minorities. The three finalists – CervoCheck, Optimium Health, and My Hopeful Journey – all got a seat at the able with one of the area’s largest health systems to talk about business pitches, marketing strategies, and other ways to win business with hospitals.
To top it off, the winner, CervoCheck, which is developing a labor monitoring device that can detect preterm birth, walked away with $15,000. Another $5,000 went to the runner-up, My Hopeful Journey, a web-based infertility calendar.
The challenge is more than a one-time giveaway for deserving businesses – it is an example of the role of leadership to smaller businesses LifeBridge tethers to its mission. LifeBridge CEO Warren Green said he believes it and anchor businesses in every sector have a responsibility to foster growth and competition by fostering new businesses. “I think there is a moral imperative,” Green said. As part of LifeBridge’s Entrepreneur Challenge businesses selected as finalists met with LifeBridge management and medical experts in the company’s area of expertise.
CervoCheck, a company created by a group of Johns Hopkins graduates, met with an obstetrician to talk about the business plan for their labor monitoring device. The feedback on their plan from a hospital chain that could someday be a client was invaluable, said Karen Hwong, Chief Executive Officer of CervoCheck. The company is still in its clinical testing phase, but when it is ready to sell to clients, it hopes to branch out from its teaching hospital roots and appeal to community hospitals. “Whenever you start off with a business, you want to know your device is targeting the need of the market. To have that validated by a leading obstetrician in the field is wonderful,” Hwong said. “So many businesses may go off track and be misdirected, especially in the early stages.”
Leaders of Optimium Health, a workflow solutions company, hope the attention from LifeBridge will give the business – which is less than a year old – more credibility. “Other client’s we’re talking to take notice,” said Heather Guild, the company’s Chief of Marketing. “If LifeBridge is taking a further look at you, then maybe we should too”. Their meetings with LifeBridge throughout the challenge have served as a test run for their upcoming work of making deals with clients, she said. “We have been able to further refine our plan and how we speak with clients and investors,” Guild said.
And at its very base, the Entrepreneur Challenge has given growing businesses what they can’t get enough of – free publicity and networking. LifeBridge announced the competition’s winner April 25 at its third annual Business Summit, a daylong event at which all three finalists had the opportunity to present their business model to some of the area’s top health care providers and business leaders.