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Bizplans: Churchill asks no equity from Young Entrepreneur Contest entrants
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Mike Hardwick
CMC Founder/Owner

Updated 12 March 2013: Churchill announced its winners, 11 March, in a release here. The original VNC story appears below.-Ed.

MIDSTATE ENTREPRENEURS under age 30 still have time to submit competitive business plans for consideration by judges empaneled by contest sponsor Churchill Mortgage.

The formal Dec. 31 deadline for submissions comes with a grace period: Would-be entrants who say they need more time may have until Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, said Lawson H. 'Mike' Hardwick, Churchill's founder, president and 100 percent owner.

Churchill is not asking for any equity in the single winning venture that will emerge from its first business-plan competition, he emphasized.

The contest is being conducted as as public service by Churchill, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the company's founding in 1992, said Hardwick, a lifelong Nashvillian.

To qualify for the contest, businesses must be based in or planning to headquarter in Middle Tennessee; and, the businesses must be no more than 18 months old.

The eventual winner in this year's contest will receive $5,000 cash, as well as other goods and services valued at more than $30,000, Hardwick told VNC. Up to 20 finalists will be interviewed during individual sessions in February, at the Hutton Hotel here; then, a winner will be announced in March, the company previously announced.

In addition to cash, the contest winner will receive monthly meetings with Churchill and other executives chosen to support the firm; a one-year membership at E|Spaces; automatic enrolment in the Nashville Entrepreneur Center accelerator program; an iPad loaded with resource materials; and, a gratis weekend stay at Hutton Hotel, a contest sponsor.

Provided the winner completes the year-long mentoring program, they are also awarded registration in the weeklong "EntreLeadership Master Series," created by talk-show host and educator Dave Ramsey, according to the contest webpage.

Churchill Mortgage expects to exceed $1 Billion in total lending for the first time, in 2012; and, it seems likely to surpass $1.25BN in 2013, said the founder. The profitable and debt-free company has more than 290 employees, and has 17 offices in 26 states, and will soon open its first offices in Portland, Ore. and in southern California, Hardwick confirmed.

The informal, but dedicated mentoring that Hardwick received from business men and women early in his career, and particularly through earlier personal financial downturns, heavily influenced his decision to launch the current entrepreneurial contest, he said. Odds are that the contest will be replicated in future years -- and improved by lessons learned in this cycle -- but that decision has not yet been made, he said.

The contest is but one of the company's anniversary activities: It has also mobilized employees in support of Second Harvest and Habitat for Humanity, and has supported child-services programs overseen by the state's human services agency, Hardwick noted.

Churchill has long been prominently and exclusively endorsed by financial talk-show host Dave Ramsey, a close friend dating back to Hardwick's childhood, he explained. Ramsey's Lampo Group is based in Brentwood, also.

Churchill's advisors include attorneys Bone McAllester Norton (Trace Blankenship) and Blankenship CPA Group (Claude Blankenship), Hardwick said. It banks with Fifth Third (which acquired its previous banker, Franklin National Bank, of which Harwick was co-founder and a former executive vice president). PR for the entrepreneurship contest has been handled by Megan Hardwick, the company's communications director and the founder's daughter; and, by Atlanta-based William Mills Agency.

The panelists judging the contestants have close ties to Hardwick; they are: Judy Williams, a top agent for Crye-Leike Real Estate and a former Washington, D.C.-area media sales rep; Dave Ramsey's director of national advertising sales, Chris Thomas; Cecil Kemp, a personal, business and financial coach who does business as The Wisdom Company; Linda Hilliard, a director of stewardship and business development at Christ Church Nashville; Steve Hardwick, who is a managing director of Raymond James|Morgan Keegan (Burton Hills office) and not a relative of Mike Hardwick; Blankenship CPA's Claude and CJ Blankenship; and, George H. Armistead III, who provides business-development services as Answers by Armistead, among other interests. 

Hardwick, 61, is a son of Christ Church Nashville Pastor Emeritus Lawson Hugh (L.H.) Harwick Jr., who helped found that community in 1949-50, according to information online. VNC

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