From Illinois Business Journal news services
EDWARDSVILLE — The Metro East Startup Challenge is back for a second year — and the top prize is bigger.
Patrick McKeehan, director of the Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, announced the event at a Godfrey gathering this week.
“On (Tuesday) I had the pleasure of announcing the 2015 Metro East Startup Challenge at the Opportunities for Local and Regional Food Conference in Godfrey. Announcement of this year’s regional business plan competition at a gathering of ‘foodpreneurs’ was very appropriate since the MESC’s goal is to encourage and support business startups across a number of growth industries, including the all-important food sector,” McKeehan said.
The Challenge has expanded in size, scope, and depth, to include:
– Participants in this year will vie for $25,000 in guaranteed cash prizes – a $10,000 increase over our first year;
– The 2015 Challenge will expand its industry targets — manufacturing, information technologies, and heath care — to include sustainable food. All four of these key sectors have the ability to generate significant impact, economically sustain communities, and improve quality of life in our region;
– The Challenge continues to add supporters and expand its reach. This year’s participants will have the opportunity to match up with a local business mentor to benefit from their experience, advice and connections. The Leadership Council of Southwestern Illinois, in cooperation with the Greater Belleville Chamber, has agreed to organize a Metro East Mentors pilot program in support of the Challenge and, potentially, to support startups in our region throughout the year.
There has been increased interest by entrepreneurs inside and outside of the region. The recently completed Highland Gigabit Challenge received “a surprising number of international applicants. We anticipate and welcome the same level of interest,” McKeehan said.
This year’s Metro East Startup Challenge will officially kickoff at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 29. Entrepreneurs and startups (less than three years in business) will get the chance to submit their business concept on-line for full consideration and extensive support. Three competitive rounds and four months later, the Challenge will conclude on Friday, Sept. 4th with a public announcement of the 2015 winners.
Sponsors will again include PNC Foundation, University Park at SIUE, St. Louis Regional Chamber and the SIUE School of Business.
“All of this wonderful support should not be limited to only these partners. We need all Metro East community/economic development organizations, business service providers and financial institutions involved to create a strong entrepreneurial culture within our region,” McKeehan said.
People can get involved by contacting the Illinois Metro East SBDC at (618) 650-2929.
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