The Next Great Idea Oswego County Business Plan Competition began in 2008 when economic development officials along with business and community leaders came together to develop a program to encourage entrepreneurship and develop a solution for a problem many businesses find when getting started- access to seed capital.
“We knew we had a lot of great business ideas in the community but the recurring obstacle we kept finding when trying to assist businesses was a lack of equity for companies to get off the ground or to go to a bank and obtain traditional financing,” Wheelock added. “We were losing companies and talented entrepreneurs to areas that had these types of programs and cultures of entrepreneurship in place.”
Past NGI competition winner, ArcoArt, was awarded $25,000 in 2014 to design and create unique string instrument covers out of fabric. Lakeside Artisans Cooperative won the 2010 competition and Ocean Blue Technology, LLC, (OBT), won the first NGI competition in 2008. Lakeside Artisans, now known as Riverside Artisans, is a for-profit art cooperative that has developed a retail showcase in Oswego’s Canal Commons to promote local artwork and artisans’ crafts. OBT, a Fulton-based company, developed the DiveBud™ Scuba Safety Platform for the recreational diving market.
“We’re excited this year to double the prize to a $50,000 award which will help attract even bigger and better ideas to the competition and show the region and beyond that we are serious about encouraging entrepreneurship in Oswego County.”
The entire competition will consist of three phases, starting with the Business Concept Proposal which will be due by February 1, 2018; and from there judges will select semi-finalists to move on to develop full business plans due in June 2018; and NGI culminates with the entrepreneurs making their “pitch” in person to a panel of judges in September 2018. The judging panel will be composed of local bankers, business owners, business service professionals, and investors. 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, but several bankable, feasible business plans with confident entrepreneurs then everyone wins, especially Oswego County.”
The competition web site http://www.oswegocounty.org/NGI/index.htm, includes an overview of the event, a competition timeline, application guidelines, sponsors, partners and contact information. In addition, the $50,000 can potentially be leveraged to borrow up to $500,000 in partnership with local banks, Operation Oswego County, Inc., the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency, the cities of Oswego and Fulton community development offices and other partner economic development agencies.
Wheelock can be contacted at 315-343-1545 or at [email protected]