About the HBC

The Humboldt Business Challenge is a non-profit with the mission to educate, accelarate and provide incentives to new and expanding existing businesses in Humboldt County.  We do this by hosting a business competition.  2014/2015 was our pilot competition year.  We are currently planning for the 2016 Competition by planning the submission documents, educational opportunities and partnerships.  We operate complete on the generosity of our sponsors.  Please support our sponsors and competing businesses.

General Information

Humboldt Business Challenge is committed to creating new business and assisting established businesses to expand in to new markets. Competitors will have a chance to gain valuable experience, networks and education while competing for cash and in-­kind award.

It is your responsibility to read the entire rules and entry guidelines for the current competition year to assure you meet all deadlines, criteria for entry, and fulfill all obligations of the competition. Don’t forget, this is YOUR business!

Qualifications of entry are determined by each Stage of entry.  All entrants must be committed to living and having the primary operations of their business in Humboldt County.

How to Enter

Registration is facilitated through the "Enter the Challenge" section of this site.

Use of Submitted Material

HBC does not promise confidentiality of any submitted material, verbally or in writing. All submitted material for judging is due on the due date of the Stage and will not be added to, altered, or otherwise changed. During private interviews, competitors will have a chance to explain any submitted materials to the judges. All decisions of eligibility or that of award distribution are the sole discretion of HBC. All decisions and interpretations of the Rules and Entry Guidelines are that of HBC and may be changed at any time.


Partnerships of 2 or more owners of a business are allowed to compete in HBC. All partnerships must provide a Partnership Agreement included in entry materials to be eligible for prizes. If a Partnership Agreement is not received by HBC staff the business / team materials will not be judged and will be ineligible to receive a prize award.

Structure of Contest

The contest is divided into three distinct stages that are intended to build on each other. The Award Ceremony of each Stage is the start of the next Stage until the Awards Ceremony of Stage 3.

  • Stage One – Ideas: A compelling and reasonable opportunity/idea or concept for an identified market to satisfy an unmet need.
  • Stage Two – Analysis: Detailed market, product/service and economic analysis including targeted market research/feedback that demonstrates a clear understanding of the conditions for success, with a well-­reasoned and actionable plan for achieving success. This is intended to produce a working document that will help participants define and quantify their ideas, both for themselves and the judging panel.
  • Stage Three – Market Prototyping/First Dollar: Real world prototyping of product or service with target customers based on participants’ understanding of the conditions of success. All participants must confirm that their business has generated at least a “first dollar” in revenue and a credible method for measuring and tracking success factors in order to be considered for award/feedback in this stage.


Attendance is required for all competitors at the dates listed in Important and Required Dates (see table above). Failure to attend will result in loss of award (if given) for that Stage.

Required Forms

It is required for all team members to provide appropriate documentation to receive awards including W-­9 and/or EIN forms. No prizes will be awarded without the required forms. All team member(s) receiving awards are solely responsible for any and all tax liabilities associated with them and should plan for those allocations in determining their total prize amounts.


  • In-­kind awards: Some examples of in-­‐kind awards that could be very valuable to an aspiring entrepreneur are: Customer agreements to provide retail shelf space for new products; Distribution agreements with buyer introductions; Advertising help; Office Space; Graphic Design; Product Prototyping; Trade Show Booths; Executive Coaching; Staffing/Recruiting; Banking Services; Legal and Accounting Support.
  • Cash awards: Money is a motivator for most. To the extent practical, the magnitude of cash awards will be based on merit, but the distribution of cash to award winners will be tied to identified business needs and milestones.
  • Meaningful recognition: Tagline, press release, and authorization to use tagline in professional bio, Social Media, and resume. For example “Best Consumer Product Winner – 2015 Humboldt Business Challenge”
Important Disclosures


All sessions, stages and entries in the competition are not confidential. Due to the nature of the competition, we do not ask judges, reviewers, staff or audience members to sign any confidentiality or non-­‐disclosure statements. Pictures, video, press, written and oral statements can be made to highlight a business or individual competing.

Use of Copyright Materials

Information presented to HBC is the sole responsibility of the competitor and/or business. HBC and any of its affiliates, has not taken, and does not intend to take, any steps to verify the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, materials or statements presented. The competing teams and individuals, and not HBC, is responsible for adhering to all laws and restrictions: federal, state and other securities laws. HBC does not give investment advice, endorsement, analysis or recommendations with respect to any securities and is not a broker, venture fund or an investment advisor. All competitors must sign the Competitor Release.

Our Judging Panel

Our judges are an integral piece of Humboldt Business Challenge.  Each judges devotes countless hours to each stage of the competition to review entries, provide feedback to competitors and, ultimately, distribution of the awards.  

Judges make determinations regarding seed capital and in-kind prizes using their expertise and the following judging guidelines:

    1. Highest probability for viability.
    2. Ability of the owner and management team to lead.
    3. Greatest potential impact for Humboldt County.

Humboldt Business Challenge asks that competitors do not contact judges regarding their entries.

Melanie Bettenhausen

Melanie Bettenhausen is the Marketing & Membership Director for the North Coast Co-op, where she leads a team of talented individuals who are responsible for external advertising, in-store marketing, consumer education, member-owner relations, community building, and an extensive outreach program, including two teaching kitchens. She has a long history of employment from all over the map--deli manager to oil change mechanic—as well as owning a tile installation business and a short stint making and selling hand-made bags from salvaged materials. Melanie moved from North Carolina to Arcata in 2002 to finish her Sociology degree at Humboldt State University, and gave a year to YouthServe AmeriCorps.

Melanie believes an essential component of business is leadership. She says, “Business owners need dedicated employees not only to make their product, but to fulfill their mission and vision and become a part of their brand. Leadership extends beyond the product, since businesses need a nurturing community in which to grow--what you know is important, but who you know and your impression on them can be far more critical.” Melanie’s advice to competitors is to be able to describe the bridge they are building between reality and possibility, between the community and themselves, and to identify the resources they will use to get there. 

Jennifer Budwig

Humboldt County native Jennifer Budwig is a graduate of Humboldt State University. She earned her degree in Business Management in 1989. Additionally, Jennifer is a graduate of Pacific Coast Banking School, graduating in 2011 in the top 10% of her class. She is the Chief Lending Officer for Redwood Capital Bank, bringing with her over 20 years of banking experience.

Jennifer's civic involvement includes: Board Member for the Redwood Memorial Foundation, Chair of the McLean Foundation, is a Director for the North Coast Small Business Development Center and serves on the Loan Committee for the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission and is the Chair of the Decade of Difference Finance Committee. She and her husband Rob reside in Hydesville.

Lawrence "Larney" Ford

Larney is a fifth-generation Humboldt County native, and has been a financial services professional for over 20 years and a commercial lines agent with George Petersen Insurance Agency since 2009. Larney specializes in commercial insurance and life insurance and especially enjoys working with those in the construction, medical/healthcare, and agricultural fields. Outside of the office, Larney enjoys spending time with his wife and two teenage children, exercising, working on the ranch, and traveling. He is a member and supporter of many community organizations including the Humboldt Botanical Gardens Foundation.

Bruce Hamilton

Bruce Hamilton is the owner of Wildwood Manafacturing and has over 40 years experience in manufacturing, MIS, and executive experience.  Bruce's experience includes twenty years at North Face as the VP Manufacturing and CEO and the CEO of Yakima.  He lives in Arcata with his wife Cathy.

Susan Jansson

Susan Jansson fosters fitness. She is the advocate of exercise to feel good, be strong and maintain endurance in all areas of life.  She builds and manages profitable health club enterprises throughout California and Oregon. Each continues expanding to meet the growing needs of its community.  Looking, thinking, and feeling great is the essence of Susan’s vision for people.

Manny Mello

Manny is the Commercial Producer for George Petersen Insurance company.  Over 25 years in the insurance industry, he’s earned the Certified Insurance Counselor designation and become a Competent Toastmaster. Manny’s a member of the Humboldt County Fire Safe Council and St. Bernard’s Catholic School Board. He’s been married for 25 years to the same women and has 3 kids with same.

Meridth Maier Ripley

As the co-owner of 6 Rivers Brewery, Meredith is the marketing guru behind the brewery's distribution growth and increased brand awareness.  She is also very involved with the brewery's giving back to the community.  Along with her role as Brewhouse Coordinator, she oversees marketing and public relations for the brewhouse and restaurant.  She is also an active board member of Humboldt Made, Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Sequoia Humane Society.  Meredith received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Her business experience is something she loves sharing with the next generation of aspiring entrepreneurs; so she is very excited to serve as a judge for the Humboldt Business Challenge.  She also recently appeared on Women's Radio Network sharing her and Talia's story of how they came to success.  Meredith started a Northern California Chapter of the Pink Boots Society with her co-chair, Kerry, head brewer of Lost Coast Brewery. 

Are you ready to build a better Humboldt?

The HBC provide incentives to promising entrepreneurs in cash awards, in-kind prizes, and meaningful recognition.