MANSFIELD - The sharks were a little friendlier than on the ABC reality TV series, but Seekonk's Darlene Sicard still had to overcome a little nervousness and seven rivals to capture the $2,500 top prize Tuesday in a local bank's version of "The Shark Tank."
Sicard, who bakes customized cookies and dessert treats out of her home for her business D's Lectables, impressed three judges with her idea for sweets for people with diet restrictions and her down-to-earth business sense.
"This was a great chance for me to come out of my comfort zone and share my passion for baking," said Sicard, 46, who added she is planning to lease space for a retail bakery in the near future.
She said she plans to use the prize money to expand her marketing efforts through a website and social media.
Sicard came out on top in the finals of HarborOne Bank's small business "Pitch Contest" against competitors promoting everything from a flea market to window cleaning services. The window cleaner and the inventor of a plastic cover that keeps baked goods fresh and germ free took second and third places, earning $1,000 each.
Sicard said she learned baking from her grandmother as a girl, and has loved creating sweet treats ever since. She started baking at home for friends, and soon had enough demand to start a business.
Sicard said she realized there was a demand for sweets for people who have dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance and food allergies and began crafting desserts they can eat.
"One of my strengths is that I can customize recipes," said Sicard, who brought her 14-year-old daughter to the contest Tuesday.
Other finalists in the contest hailed from a number of Massachusetts communities from Berkley to Springfield.
The competitors were scored by a three-judge expert panel that included HarborOne Vice President Scott Sanborn, Brockton City Council member Shaynah Barnes and Stonehill College Associate Professor Jegoo Lee.
The contest finals were held at the bank's Mansfield office, which doubles as a financial education center.
Officials said they were pleased with the outcome of the contest, and that it might become an annual feature at the bank which offers business and financial literacy classes in Mansfield and Brockton.
"We see small business as a big part of our customer base, and as small businesses succeed, it benefits us as well," said HarborOne Vice President for Community Education Maureen Wilkinson. "It's a win-win for all of us."