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Metro East business competition down to seven finalists

Seven Southwestern Illinois-based entrepreneurs and their innovative business concepts have been selected to move into the final round of the 2020 Metro East Start-Up Challenge, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s 7th annual regional business plan competition.

More than 25 entrepreneurs expressed interest in the regional competition this year, according to Jo Ann DiMaggio May, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center for the Metro East at SIUE and Challenge coordinator. Approximately half of the prospective competitors completed the entry process and were invited to participate.

“We’re extremely pleased with the sustained level of interest in our region’s business plan contest,” DiMaggio May said. “There has been a robust outpouring of enthusiasm about the Challenge from applicants, community leaders and our small business development partners.

“The SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge creates the opportunity to engage with the region in cultivating an important economic development strategy. Although only seven remain eligible for the $10,000 top cash prize, we encourage everyone that considered or entered the Challenge to access the SBDC’s wide menu of resources and expertise.”

The remaining part of the Challenge will require the finalists to present a 5-minute pitch in front of five judges. Ultimately, they must clearly define reasons why their business concept will be successful. The Metro East SBDC helped prepare the finalists by offering guidance and two pitch classes September.

Competitors will pitch on Thursday, Oct. 29, before a select panel of judges. The winners will be announced immediately following the pitch presentations.

The winning entry is worth $10,000. The runner-up receives $6,000 and third place is valued at $4,000. This year, Regions Bank is sponsoring a fourth place prize of $1,000.  An array of in-kind services also are provided to the top three competitors.

The 2020 Metro East Start-Up Challenge Finalists include:

Air Eye, of Edwardsville
Amygdala Co., of Belleville
Art Sculpt International, of Fairview Heights
Clara B’s Kitchen Table, of Belleville
Denali Building Supply, of Edwardsville
Pushing Limits, Inc., of Mulberry Grove
Sharp Coffee LLC, of O’Fallon

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