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Semifinalists named in Metro East Start-Up Challenge

Fifteen Southwestern Illinois-based entrepreneurs and their innovative business concepts have been selected to move into the second round of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s 8th annual Metro East Startup Challenge.

The Metro East Startup Challenge welcomes entrepreneurs and new businesses from a nine-county area of Southwestern Illinois, and this year expanded to include Fayette and Montgomery counties. More than 40 entrepreneurs expressed interest in the regional competition this year, according to Jo Ann Di Maggio May, director of the Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center at SIUE.

Of the 25 individuals who completed the entry process, 15 have been named semifinalists, including:

  • A2 Creative, Inc – 3D Gloop! (Edwardsville)
  • A2Z Events LLC (Belleville)
  • Amygdala Co (Belleville)
  • Arch Equipment Group LLC (Troy)
  • Cafe Biz 618 (Fairview Heights)
  • Cultural Charisma (Edwardsville)
  • Dick Mossman’s Rub (Grafton)
  • Dippy’s Custard (O’Fallon)
  • Heyo Devs (Edwardsville)
  • Ivy Vocational Services LLC (Belleville)
  • Makeda Jones Pottery LLC (Glen Carbon)
  • Missing Meadows Inc (Edwardsville)
  • Silent Dawn Tactical (Edwardsville)
  • Sonamu Games LLC (Highland)
  • WholeBody, PLLC (Troy)

“We’re extremely pleased with the sustained level of interest in our region’s business plan contest,” said Di Maggio May, competition coordinator. “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 15 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.”

Semifinalists are invited to a networking event on Wednesday, Sept. 8, where they will be paired with four mentors. Hosted at the Gateway Center Convention Center in Collinsville, the event brings together business professionals and leaders from around the Metro East.

Round two of the Challenge will require the 15 semifinalists to create a condensed business plan, develop financial projections, and clearly define reasons why their business concept will be successful. The SBDC will offer guidance and support to semifinalists in the form of workshops throughout September.

Competitors have until Sunday, Oct. 10 to submit their business plans and financial statements. Judges will select eight finalists, who will pitch their business concept on Wednesday, Oct. 27 to a select panel of judges. The winners will be announced immediately following the pitch presentations.

The first-place winner will receive a $10,000 prize. Second place earns $6,000 and third place will receive $4,000. Regions Bank is sponsoring a 4th place prize winning of $2,000. Winners are also offered an array of in-kind services. This year, the City of O’Fallon and Ameren Energy Efficiency Programs are sponsoring two new categories: Woman, Minority or Veteran Business of the Year, and Rural Business of the Year, respectively.

The competition culminates with the top four winners presenting their ideas to Leadership Council Southwest Illinois on Friday, Nov. 5.

The SBDC assists start-up ventures, as well as existing businesses headquartered in the nine-county region of Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph. It is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and SIUE as a service to Illinois small businesses.

To learn about the SBDC, contact the Illinois SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE at (618) 650-2929.


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