maroon wave
Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery MOU signing
From left: William Burke, SU executive director of entrepreneurship; Dr. Christy Weer, Perdue School of Business dean; Carlene Cassidy, Ratcliffe Foundation CEO; and Dr. Karen Olmstead, SU provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, sign a memorandum of agreement for funding to continue the Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery program through 2026.

$900,000 Ratcliffe Foundation Gift to Continue SU Shore Hatchery Entrepreneurship Program Through 2026

SALISBURY, MD---From blown glass to sporting equipment, water quality monitoring to baked goods, and many products and services in between, more than 100 entrepreneurs have made their dreams a reality with the help of Salisbury University’s Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery entrepreneurship competition.

Many more will have that opportunity over the next three years, as the foundation recently pledged an additional $900,000 to continue its sponsorship of the program at least through 2026. The new gift, which also includes funding to continue the University’s Ratcliffe Foundation Management Excellence Scholarship, brings the foundation’s total investment in SU to $2.9 million.

“When SU partnered with Carole Ratcliffe and the Ratcliffe Foundation to create the Shore Hatchery program in 2013, we set out to help local entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses quickly, and the success we’ve seen from this program is exponential,” said SU President Carolyn Ringer Lepre.

“Our numbers show the program has far exceeded our initial targets of starting a business in six months or less and growing to employ five or more people in the following three years. With winners who have self-reported estimated profits of some $98 million and with nearly 700 jobs created in the past decade, we see a direct impact of the Shore Hatchery’s support on the development of our local, state and national economies.”

Through the Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery, entrepreneurs throughout the Mid-Atlantic vie each semester for their share of an annual $200,000 prize pool. In addition to funding, winners are assigned a mentor from the program’s board of directors, whose members include some of the biggest names in business, such as Chris Perdue of Perdue Farms, Inc. and Mike Cottingham of the Rommel Companies.

(The name “Shore Hatchery” is, in part, a tribute to Perdue’s grandfather, Frank Perdue, long-time CEO of famed poultry producer Perdue Farms and benefactor of SU’s Franklin P. Perdue School of Business, which oversees the entrepreneurship program. Shore Hatchery competitors also have the opportunity to take advantage of prototyping equipment and other services offered by SU’s Dave and Patsy Rommel Center for Entrepreneurship — named in honor of its benefactors, owners of the Rommel Companies.)

“Being an entrepreneur is tough,” said William Burke, SU executive director of entrepreneurship. “It feels like everything is against you, and you’re out there on your own. The economic ecosystem SU and the Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery provide — for both competitors and winners — can be a game-changer. We’re here to help start-ups and encourage economic growth.”

“It’s not just about the money,” added Carlene Cassidy, Ratcliffe Foundation CEO. “It’s about access to the experts, the resources and the wealth of knowledge that [Burke] and the team at Salisbury have collected. That might be more important than the cash itself.”

The program supports the vision of Philip E. Ratcliffe Jr., a Baltimore area real estate developer, and his wife, Carole, a successful businesswoman in the boating industry.

“People can be good at something, but they don’t really understand business,” said Cassidy. “That was catalyst for Philip and Carole Ratcliffe to make these targeted investments in business startups and entrepreneurship. They believed that it was inherent in everyone to learn, and they believed in contributing to the economy. They enjoyed the process of seeing young entrepreneurs figure it out.”

Though Philip did not get to see the Shore Hatchery become a reality — he died in 2009, four years before the first competition — Carole spoke highly of the way the competitors carried on their entrepreneurial spirit. She attended many of the competitions in person prior to her passing in 2018.

She and the foundation were drawn to SU as a potential home for the Shore Hatchery in part due to the Perdue School’s Student Entrepreneurship Competitions. Created with sponsorship from MaTech, BAI Aerosystems, Lorch Microwave, LWRC and K&L Microwave founder Richard Bernstein in 1986, the annual student business plan contest is one of the oldest of its kind in the nation, boasting a prize pool of up to $100,000 in recent years.

“The Ratcliffe Foundation has taken the Perdue School’s reputation as an entrepreneurial incubator and elevated it to the regional and national levels,” said Dr. Christy Weer, dean of the Perdue School. “We are so grateful not only to have the opportunity to play such a major role in the local entrepreneurship ecosystem, but to provide resources for business startups throughout the Mid-Atlantic and beyond.”

In 2014, the Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery drew the attention of producers from the hit ABC-TV series Shark Tank, on which entrepreneurs attempt to attract celebrity investors. Auditions for the national show were held at SU in 2014 and 2015; a third scheduled audition was canceled due to nationwide COVID-19 protocols in 2020.

During that time, three Shore Hatchery winners have been selected to appear on national TV networks featuring their businesses and products: The owners of Tania Speaks organic skincare and The Frozen Farmer ice cream appeared on Shark Tank, and Tip Tough finger protector has appeared on QVC and the USA Network. All three walked away with investment deals. The Home Shopping Network has also carried products supported by the Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery.

“It’s unlikely Philip Ratcliffe could have envisioned the impact the foundation and programs he and Carole created have had on the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Jason Curtin, SU vice president of advancement and alumni relations, and executive director of the SU Foundation, Inc. “With this gift, the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation is ensuring their legacies continue to make a difference for years to come.”

For more information about the Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery Foundation program, call 410-546-4325 or visit the program website.

Learn more about opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at the SU website.