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Metro East Start-Up Challenge
Metro East Start-Up Challenge

To participate in the 2024 Metro East Startup Challenge, prospective applicants must meet the following criteria:

1. An entrepreneur starting a for-profit small business enterprise or an existing for-profit small business established after April 30, 2021, regardless of State of initial operation or initial entity structure;

2. For existing for-profit businesses, operations headquartered in the nine-plus county Metro East region (Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe, Randolph and now open to Macoupin, Montgomery, and Fayette Counties!).

3. For established for profit businesses to be eligible, they must be in Good Standing with the Illinois Secretary of State at time of application.

4.  For an entrepreneur purchasing an existing business, the entity will not be considered a startup.  Date will begin with previous ownership.

For pre-venture entrepreneurs, proposed new business operations will need to be located in these eleven counties; Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe, Randolph, Macoupin, Montgomery, and Fayette

5. No public governmental entities or public/private schools or universities may apply

6. Participants must be 18 years old prior to the first round submission deadline.

Due to federal law, businesses concerning cannabis, gambling, or lobbying activities will not be considered for the competition.

A contestant is not eligible to compete in a future competition (under the same business) if they have previously won one of the top 4 prizes.

Structure and Schedule:

The SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge includes three (3) rounds. The first round consists of a questionnaire and executive summary submittal for all applicants meeting the eligibility guidelines. The second round is submitting the business plan and is open only to first-round participants who are invited to submit for the second round. The third round is the final pitch and is open only to second round participants invited to develop a pitch.  For the additional prizes (Woman, Minority, Veteran Business of the Year and Rural Business of the Year), the top 4 winners will only be eligible for these additional prizes if there are no other entrants from these categories.


June 16, 2024: First Round Application Open

August 11, 2024, 11:59 p.m.:  First Round Application/Executive Summary submission deadline. 

August 21, 2024: Judges complete and Submit Evaluations 

August 23, 2024: Semi-Finalists Announced/Second Round Applications Open

August 27, 2024, 4-5 p.m.:  Business Plan Class (Attendance is highly recommended)*

  • Tentatively via Virtual Zoom Meeting, Semifinalists will receive login invite closer to date.
August 29, 2024, 4-5 pm.:  Business Plan Financial Spreadsheets Class (Attendance is highly recommended)*
  • Tentatively via Virtual Zoom Meeting, Semifinalists will receive login invite closer to date.
September 19, 2024, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: Mentor-Semifinalist Networking Event - Attendance is Mandatory
  • Gateway Center, Collinsville

October 2, 2024, 4:00-5:30 p.m.:  Pitch Prep Class 1 (Attendance is highly recommended)*

  • Tentatively via Virtual Zoom Meeting, Semifinalists will receive login invite closer to date.

October 9, 2024, 4:00-5:30 p.m.: Pitch Prep Class 2 (Attendance is highly recommended)*

  • Tentatively via Virtual Zoom Meeting

October 13, 2024, 11:59 p.m. Second Round Condensed Business Plan submission deadline 

October 14, 2024, 2-6 p.m.:  Mock Pitch -- Attendance is Strongly encouraged for semifinalists

  • Ink House, Edwardsville

October 20, 2024: Judges complete and submit Evaluations

October 22, 2024: Announcement of Finalists 

October 28, 2024, 9 a.m. -3 p.m.: Final Pitch to Judging Panel - Attendance is Mandatory for Finalists

  • Ink House Edwardsville

November 1, 2024, 7-9 a.m.: Announcement of MESC Winners at Virtual Leadership Council Meeting

              Attendance is Mandatory for winning companies. 

  • Double Tree in Collinsville

*3 points added to final Business Plan score if competitors attend all 4 of these events (2 BP classes and 2 pitch prep classes)

Use of Competition Materials

The SBDC reserves the right to use any materials prepared for the challenge for the purpose of publicizing and promoting the event. The SBDC may use these materials in any printed materials and any video or another medium that it may produce. The SBDC reserves the right to record any portion of the competition and use for future publicity and promotion.

Changes to Competition Rules

While not anticipated, the challenge rules and prizes are subject to change at any time. 

Decisions regarding the Competition and the Winners

All decisions regarding the competition rules, procedures and processes are at the sole discretion of the IL SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE. Changes and/or interpretation of these rules may be made by the SBDC at any time, even though they may be (or may appear to be) in conflict with previously published information. The selection of teams and winners is at the sole discretion of the judges and the SBDC.


The SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge considers all submitted business plans as confidential and treats all team matters accordingly. However, due to the nature of the event, we cannot guarantee complete confidentiality for proprietary matters. SIUE, challenge sponsors, and the organizers of the competition are not responsible for any proprietary information and/or intellectual property included in a submitted business plan.

Ultimately, protection of sensitive materials such as intellectual property, copyright, or patent confidentiality is the sole responsibility of the individual or team participating in the competition. Non-disclosure agreements will not be signed by judges, mentors, or any SIUE staff associated with the business plan competition.

For More Information
Contact the Illinois Small Business
Development Center (SBDC)
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