Monday, 19 March 2018 14:01

Judges Announced for 2018 'Next Great Idea` Business Plan Competition

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Finalists are selected for the "Next Great Idea" Oswego County business plan competition. Finalists are selected for the "Next Great Idea" Oswego County business plan competition. Submitted Photo

The panel of judges has been secured for The Next Great Idea (NGI) 2018 Oswego County Business Plan Competition, according to Austin Wheelock, deputy director for Operation Oswego County and Co-Chair of NGI.

“The Next Great Idea is the result of business and community leaders joining together to launch a competition that encourages entrepreneurs to commit to new business development in Oswego County and offers a $50,000 prize to help make a dream come true,” Wheelock said.

Judges for the event are Adam Gagas, founder of Breakwall Asset Management; Carla Deshaw, executive dean of Cayuga Community College Fulton Campus; Ron Tascarella, Jr., vice president at Pathfinder Bank; John Fitzgibbons, owner of the Fitzgibbons Agency; Chena Tucker, executive director of the Oswego County Workforce Development Board; David Dano, Business Finance Director at Operation Oswego County; Dr. Sarfraz Mian, professor at SUNY Oswego; Allison Nelson, owner of Nelson Law, Shane Stepien, president of Step One Creative; Vinny Lobdell, Jr., of HealthWay Home Products and the Kallet Theater; and George Broadwell, Jr., of Broadwell Hospitality Group.

Judges were selected based on their local business knowledge and expertise in the fields of operations, management, financing, and entrepreneurship.

The first phase of the 2018 NGI Competition is currently underway and the judges are reviewing business concept proposals. This year’s competition received a record number of business concept proposals with 33 submissions by the March 1st deadline. The proposals represent a vast range of industries including tourism, manufacturing, technology, retail, hospitality, and agri-business. Approximately half of the submissions were by women entrepreneurs and the vast majority of submissions were from Oswego County residents.

The entire competition will consist of three phases that will require semi-finalists advancing to the second phase to develop full business plans and, in the third phase, finalists will make their “pitch” in person to the panel of judges. This panel will determine which proposals will be selected to enter the subsequent phases culminating in the winner being chosen and honored at a luncheon on September 18, 2018. Ideas that are not selected will receive written feedback from the judges of how to improve their proposals for the future. 

“We’ve designed the NGI program in a way to benefit all the participants involved, not just the ultimate winner of the competition,” Wheelock said. “If we have one $50,000 prize winner come out of this, plus several bankable, feasible business plans with confident entrepreneurs then everyone wins, especially Oswego County.”

The event web site,, includes an overview of the event, a competition timeline, guidelines, details on the $50,000 prize, sponsors, partners and contact information. If the winning business will require additional funding, the $50,000 can potentially be leveraged for financing in partnership with local banks, the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency, the cities of Oswego and Fulton community development offices, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“The NGI partnership believes that Oswego County offers a wealth of resources and opportunities for businesses to start and flourish here. We are all extremely excited to see what great ideas the competition participants generate,” Wheelock said.

For more information, visit the web site at or by email at [email protected]

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