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InnovateHer challenge seeks entrants in business plan competition


From Illinois Business Journal news services

EDWARDSVILLE – The Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center is inviting entrepreneurs with viable products and services that impact and empower the lives of women and families to compete in a national business plan competition: InnovateHER Business Challenge.

Microsoft sponsors the U.S. Small Business Administration’s InnovateHER competition. The SBA will choose 10 competitors from across the nation who will travel to Washington, D.C. in March for a live pitch competition and compete for $70,000 in prize money. To participate, competitors must enter through a local host organization.

In September, the Illinois Metro East SBDC at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was selected as the local host and competition coordinator for Central and Southwestern Illinois. Centrue Bank and Mathis, Marifian & Richter, LTD., agreed to serve as competition sponsors. Each will provide a $2,500 cash prize along with in-kind professional services to the local winner. All InnovateHER local winners will be eligible for semifinal round consideration with the opportunity to compete in the $70,000 live pitch final round.

Patrick McKeehan, director of the Metro East SBDC, says InnovateHER is a great opportunity for Illinois entrepreneurs and small business owners to showcase their products and services on a national stage.

“Illinois SBDCs regularly work with many innovative companies offering solutions to women and working families,” said McKeehan. “We are honored to support SBA’s efforts to bring these firms to light.”

Thomas Davey, market president for Centrue Bank, is also a firm believer in the initiative.

“Women are nearly half of this country’s labor force and extremely important to our nation’s prosperity” said Davey. “As economic demands on these individuals and their families grow, products and services that respond to their unique challenges increase. This is why Centrue Bank is a proud supporter of the InnovateHER Business Challenge.”

The Metro East InnovateHER Challenge also has the support of The Meridian Society at SIUE, PNC Foundation, Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, Justine Petersen, SIUE School of Business, city of Highland and the Edwardsville-Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce.

To be eligible to compete in the local competition, the innovators must be citizens or permanent residents of the U.S., at least age 18 and have an incorporated business or organization whose primary location is within Central and Southwestern Illinois.

Each application must contain a business plan that includes the following:

– Details as to its potential for commercialization
– How it fills a particular need in the marketplace
– Specifics on how the product or service has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families

Applications must be made online via by midnight Tuesday, Nov. 10. The SBDC and its partners will announce its local winner and nominee for the March 2016 national competition Thursday, Nov. 19.

The Illinois Metro East SBDC assists start-up businesses and existing companies headquartered in the nine-county Metro East region of Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph.

Contact the Metro East SBDC at (618) 650-2929 or


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