TRAVERSE CITY — Like a lot of things, the first part of 2020 went according to plan — until it didn’t.

The first Scale Up North Awards was no exception.

Traverse Connect’s inaugural Scale Up North Awards started normally last year and proceeded according to schedule. Applications were submitted in February and 25 finalists advanced to a Showcase Event later that month. Six finalists advanced to a live pitch-style competition in mid-March.

But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the six finalists for two awards never made it to the planned live event at the City Opera House.

The Scale Up North pitch competition final was held virtually May 6-7 and the 2020 winners — TentCraft, Inc. and Interactive Aerial, Inc. — were named winners of the Scaling Business and Emerging Business awards, respectively, on May 8.

“We had to pivot quickly,” said Camille Hoisington, director of strategic projects at Traverse Connect.

Even though the final was delayed two months and wasn’t held live, the Scale Up North Awards were able to draw a bigger audience.

“We had a lot of people tune in, which was cool,” said Hoisington, who periodically writes a column for the Record-Eagle.

With the success of the inaugural event, the 2021 event also will go virtual. The finals will be livestreamed; the event is free to attend and watch.

“It actually worked incredibly well,” Hoisington said. “Including the live viewings and watching the recording of it, within a week we had a thousand views.

“It worked to our advantage because we were able to reach more people.”

Applications for the 2021 Scale Up North Awards will be accepted beginning Feb. 1 and will close at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 19. Applications can be found at

For-profit companies “in the technology, creative, and traded industries are strongly encouraged to apply,” according to a release.

The Scale Up North Awards replaced the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Small Business Celebration Awards. Businesses from Traverse Connect’s five-county area can apply.

The Scale Up North Awards will again recognize businesses in two stages of growth.

The Emerging Business Award is for new local businesses in the startup phases of growth. Eligibility includes companies with fewer than five years in business with any amount of revenue and at least three full-time employees.

The Scaling Business Award is for existing scaling businesses with demonstrated growth. Companies must have been in business for five or more years with 2020 revenue greater than or equal to $500,000 and up to 150 full-time employees.

The top six companies, split evenly between the two categories, will advance to the virtual finals.

The Emerging Business Award finalists will have a pitch-style competition May 12 from 11 a.m. to noon, with the Scaling Business Award finalists doing the same May 13 from 11 a.m. to noon.

The winners will be announced May 14 beginning at 11 a.m.

The irony of the 2020 awards was that winners TentCraft, Inc. and Interactive Aerial, Inc. share the same address — 2662 Cass Road.

“It’s a good day for 2662 Cass Road,” TentCraft president Matt Bulloch said from his office, upstairs from Interactive Aerial, after the May 8, 2020 announcement.

Interactive Aerial president Christian Smith accepted the 2020 Emerging Business Award.

“We’ll make Traverse City proud,” Smith said.

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