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SBDC seeking unique products/services for InnovateHER Challenge

The Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is inviting competitors with viable products and services that impact and empower the lives of women and families to compete in the national InnovateHER Business Challenge.

sbdclogoInnovateHER is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s national business competition sponsored by the Sarah Blakely Foundation. The SBA will choose 10 competitors from across the nation for a live pitch competition in September and the opportunity to compete for $70,000 in prize money. To participate, competitors must enter through a local host organization.

In April, the Illinois Metro East SBDC was selected as the local host and competition coordinator for Southwestern Illinois. Mathis, Marifian & Richter, LTD, serves as a competition sponsor, providing the local winner with in-kind professional services. All InnovateHER local winners will be eligible for semifinal round consideration with the opportunity to compete in the $70,000 live pitch final round.

Jo Ann Di Maggio May, interim 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 consistently support and guide many innovative companies offering solutions to women and working families,” said May. “We are honored to support SBA’s efforts to bring these firms to light.”

Patrick Mathis, shareholder at Mathis, Marifian & Richter, is also a big believer in the initiative.

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

In addition to the generosity of MM&R, the Metro East InnovateHER Challenge is supported by The SIUE School of Business, T-Rex of St. Louis, the Missouri SBTDC at the University of Missouri, Grace Hill Women’s Business Center and the “W” Network of SW Illinois.

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; and specifics on how the product or service has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families.

Applications must be made online via with an executive summary deadline of midnight Friday, May 19. The SBDC and its partners will announce its local winner and nominee for the September 2017 national competition on Friday, June 16.

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. It is a service to the community funded, in part, through a cooperative agreement between SBA, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and Southwestern Illinois University Edwardsville. It enhances the region’s economic interests by providing one-stop assistance to individuals by means of counseling, training, research and advocacy for new ventures and existing small businesses.

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


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