Houston small business competition offers seed money for would-be entrepreneurs

For all the big business that's done in Houston, the city is one of the nation's top spots for small business development.

By any measure, Houston depends on small businesses, which the government defines as companies with fewer than 500 employees. That describes 97% of the businesses in the region.

For those just starting out, the city's annual Liftoff Houston entrepreneur competition is designed to help people with an idea for a business be a part of that.


Lyndsey Brantley knows first-hand. She got started in the skincare and spa business six years ago when she developed some products she couldn't find in stores.

"I look forward to walking into the building, every day, and seeing everything that we've built," she says.

Brantley's big break came when she won a $10,000 award from Liftoff Houston, which is aimed at boosting small business growth. The seed money helps fund the winning business pitch, and includes education and mentoring, from executives who have traveled the same path.

"You will learn how to put your business plan together," says Lalla Morris, from Houston's Office of Business Opportunity, "The goal, at the end, is that you actually become bankable, so that you can raise the money that you need to invest in your business."

With her victory in hand, Brantley founded her full-service Camellia Alise spa, in the Montrose neighborhood, as a home base for growing her business.

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The skincare products are the foundation of a million-dollar beauty venture, and Brantley is now taking what she's learned and paying it forward by teaching others how to do it, as well.

It's all a far cry from her college degree as a structural engineer that gave way to an opportunity to follow her passion.

"The competition isn't about winning the money," says Brantley. "It's about taking the opportunity to get mentored; see if your idea is actually something that can take off. That is the benefit of the program."

There are three $10,000 awards from the Liftoff Houston competition. For those who don't win, there is available education, insight, and mentoring that can help point the way to starting a successful business.

The deadline for applying, is Friday, Aug. 19.