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

News - 2015

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Women’s Products/Services Innovators Invited to Compete in InnovateHER

October 1, 2015

Winners of the second-annual Small Business Development Center’s Metro East Startup Challenge are in.
The top three entrepreneurial ventures were announced Friday, Sept. 4 at the board of directors meeting of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, the contest’s partner organization. Each of the winning entities presented their business concepts at Friday’s meeting before a live audience of the region’s top executives. PNC Bank returned to sponsor the competition for the second year running.

Scoville & Company grabbed the top prize of $15,000 cash with its patented invention, Pacidose. The infant and baby medicine dispenser functions like a pacifier to administer the proper dosage. Pacidose inventors Agnes Scoville, an ER doctor, and spouse Anson Scoville, a business exec, are also 2015 Arch Grant winners.

Runner-up Slurv, created by Swansea resident Erik Beimfohr, captured a $5,000 cash prize. Slurv is a free messaging app for fantasy sports that enables players to communicate with each other during the fantasy sports league competition.

Fellow runner-up Stubborn German Brewing Co., locating in downtown Waterloo and founded by Chris and Tammy Rahn, also took home $5,000 to invest in production of German-style ales and lagers. The brewery is expected to open in 2016.

The total $25,000 in Startup Challenge awards is $10,000 more than last year, according to Patrick McKeehan, Metro East SBDC Director.
Additional sponsors and supporters of the 2015 Metro East Startup Challenge include University Park/SIUE Inc., St. Louis Regional Chamber, SIUE’s School of Business, the city of Edwardsville and the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce.


Metro East SBDC Toasts Stumpy’s Spirits as Business Success Story

15 July 2015

Entrepreneur Adam Stumpf, who captured second place in the 2014 Metro East Startup Challenge business plan competition, is celebrating the grand opening of Stumpy’s Spirits Co. distillery at 2 p.m., Saturday, July 18.

Stumpf’s concept of a grain-to-glass vodka and whiskey operation is finally coming to fruition. Stumpy’s Spirits Co. is set to produce its first thousand gallons from distillery equipment that he procured in Colorado, transported to Southern Illinois and reassembled.

Stumpf is a self-proclaimed “beer nerd,” who years ago teamed with fellow University of Missouri-Rolla engineering students to design an automated brewing system. He worked for Anheuser-Busch InBev for four years and earned an MBA at Washington University. Launching his distillery business, Stumpf says, is a natural progression.

“It’s first and foremost a family venture,” says Stumpf, noting that his wife, Laura, and the rest of their family have worked for more than two years preparing to distill and market vodka, white whiskey and bourbon. A total of 10 acres on the family’s seventh-generation 4,000-acre farm in Columbia is devoted to Stumpy’s Spirits.

 “I always thought I’d start a craft brewery,” said Stumpf. “But after trying my hand at distilling, we fell in love with it. We started crunching numbers and putting a business plan together in the spring of 2013, and Stumpy’s Spirits really began to take shape. At that point, we formed a corporation and have been on a roll ever since.”

Stumpf’s company gained additional momentum when $5,000 was awarded in the Metro East’s first regional business plan competition organized by the Small Business Development Center at SIUE. Stumpf used the winnings to build his distillery, which began producing test batches of vodka and white whiskey this past April. Recently, the business began cranking out 500-bottle batches and plans to sign with a distributor this month.

 “Literally everything we’re using in production is being grown on our family farm,” Stumpf said. “The most exciting point in our timeline was the first time we distilled, and seeing the first drip of liquid was incredibly rewarding.”

Stumpf said he is grateful to the Metro East SBDC for its expertise, its resources and enabling him to make professional connections from early in his business concept through production. “Scaling our process was a significant challenge, and the SBDC team was there to help us in planning, and launching this company,” he said.

SBDC Director Patrick McKeehan commends Stumpf for taking the right approach to launch his business.   

“Adam and his family did a fantastic job putting the pieces together and taking the time to make Stumpy’s Spirits happen, including working with local resources like University of Illinois Extension and the SBDC,” McKeehan said. “My staff and I are honored to be a valued part of the team.”

Stumpy’s Spirits will celebrate its grand opening with live music, food, product tastings, and full bottle sales on Saturday, July 18. For more information, visit Stumpy’s Spirits on Facebook


2015 Metro East Start-Up Challenge Expands to $25,000

15 May 2015

Entrepreneurs and new business startups are invited to compete in the 2015 Metro East Start-Up Challenge (MESC), Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s second annual regional business plan competition.

The $25,000 Challenge is organized by the Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The purpose of the Challenge is to identify, encourage and support entrepreneurs and business startups across the SBDC’s nine-county service area.

The first-place winner will receive a $15,000 cash prize. Two runners-up will receive $5,000 each. Prizewinners will also receive an array of in-kind professional services. 

For the second year, PNC Bank is the Challenge’s top sponsor. Other returning sponsors include University Park at SIUE and the St. Louis Regional Chamber. The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois joins the Challenge in 2015 as a major sponsor with additional support from the City of Edwardsville and Greater Belleville Chamber. SIUE’s School of Business, the SBDC’s host organization, will assist with facilitating the competition.

Patrick McKeehan, director of the SBDC in Edwardsville and East St. Louis, was pleased with last year’s results and believes the 2015 Challenge will build upon that success.  “The Metro East Start-Up Challenge elevated the discussion of and support for entrepreneurship across our region,” McKeehan said. “The interest in this year’s Challenge started immediately after we announced our 2014 winners.” 

 One of those winners, Old Dutch Classics Bats founder Todd Eschman, used his cash prize and the competition experience to take his startup to the next level. 

“The prize money immediately provided an unbudgeted infusion of capital and multiplied itself by giving me the ability to take advantage of economies of scale through bulk purchase of raw materials,” Eschman said.  “But the greatest benefit of the Challenge was preparing an award-winning business plan.

“The rigorous process and the expert assistance of the SBDC helped me address holes in my plan and impress the judges. If I took the time to monetize the value of the Challenge in my first year in business, I'm certain it would surpass the amount written on the giant check.”

The 2015 Challenge invites entrepreneurs and startup businesses from four target industries: information technology, manufacturing, health care and food. For a startup business enterprise to be eligible, it must have been established after April 30, 2012 and be headquartered in the Illinois portion of the St. Louis Metro region (Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph counties). For pre-venture entrepreneurs, proposed new business operations will need to be located within the same nine counties.

The Metro East Start-Up Challenge includes three rounds, beginning with a brief questionnaire and executive summary submittal that is open to all applications that meet the eligibility guidelines. Participants selected for the second round are invited to expand on their business idea by submitting a full business plan.  The last round is the “final pitch” in front of a panel of business experts.

For more information on the 2015 Challenge or to initiate the application process, go to The entry deadline is Friday, June 12. Semi-finalists will be announced Wednesday, June 17, with finalists notified on Monday, Aug. 3.

The Metro East Startup Challenge will announce its cash prizewinners on Friday, Sept. 4 in conjunction with the Leadership Council’s September Board Meeting in Collinsville. 

The Illinois SBDC Network is a service to the community supported, in part, by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the SIUE School of Business.

SIUE operates two Small Business Development Centers and the International Trade Center. All three Centers provide resources, information and support to entrepreneurs, and small business owners in the nine-county Metro East region of Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph. By aiding entrepreneurs and companies in defining their path to success, the SBDC positively impacts the Metro East by strengthening the business community, creating and retaining new jobs, and encouraging new investment. When appropriate, the SBDC strives to affiliate its ties to the region to support the goals and objectives of both the SIUE School of Business and the University at large.

To learn how the SBDC can help your small business, contact the Metro East SBDC at (618) 650-2929 or

Small Business Development Center to Kick Off Second Metro East Startup Challenge

7 April 2015 

     The Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center at SIUE is planning to kick off its second annual Metro East Startup Challenge later this spring. Last year’s inaugural venture attracted more than 100 budding entrepreneurs. There were 30 qualified first-round applications, six finalists and two winners. 

    “Last year’s Challenge came together quickly and we were learning on the fly,” said Patrick McKeehan, SBDC director. “It was a very interesting experience; there were definitely things that we think we can improve; but I think the results more than exceeded our expectations.” 

    The Metro East Startup Challenge awarded $15,000 in prize money last year. $10,000 was given to first place finisher, Old Dutch Classic Bats. Owner Todd Eschman, of Swansea, started in 2013 making vintage baseball bats in his garage that were used in games played by 1860s rules. Growing interest in his products made Eschman realize that he might want to convert this hobby into a full-fledged business.  While winning the Challenge gave Old Dutch Class Bats some financial help, the learning experience from going through the business plan process is what Eschman claims was the most valuable.  

   The second-place cash prize of $5,000 went to Stumpy’s Spirits near Columbia, Ill. Joe Stumpf, founder of Stumpy’s Spirits, was already working on his idea of using the harvest from his seventh-generation family farm to create distilled alcohol. He said entering the Challenge helped him think through the many issues involved in turning this idea into a real business. Stumpf’s “grain-to-glass” micro-distillery is scheduled to open in early 2015.  

    “I had visions — probably unrealistic — that we would receive numerous high tech applications and attract the next Face Book or Twitter to our region.  What we ended up with was bats and booze,” McKeehan said.  “But I think this realistically reflects what is the Metro East — we make things! This region still has a very strong manufacturing heritage.  We have people who are willing to take on the challenges of manufacturing in the U.S.”  

    This year, McKeehan is setting his sights a bit higher, looking to raise $30,000 in prize money. Of that amount, first place will receive $15,000; second place will win $7,500; and third place will get $5,000.

    “We will continue to target high-growth business opportunities, which include manufacturing, information technologies, and businesses connected to life science, health science and the health-care sectors,” McKeehan said. “Our interpretations of these industry sectors are fairly broad. We don’t want to discourage participation but want to make sure we focus on using the Challenge to generate long-term economic impact for our region.”  

    McKeehan added: “These industries also match well with the expertise, support and talent being developed at SIUE.”

    The 2015 Challenge is open to pre-venture business concepts along with startups in business less than three years. McKeehan said the Challenge judges will be looking for  solid business concepts with growth potential and well-constructed business plans.  Applicants must have a clear understanding of their market, customers and financial projections.

    McKeehan said that the 2015 Challenge will use again a multi-step process. In the first round, there will be an on-line entry form that all applicants will complete along with answering four to five business concept questions. First-round applications will be reviewed and a winnowing process will occur, narrowing the field going into the second round.   

    That round will consist of developing a condensed business plan — about a 12-page summary with financial data attached — and additional details regarding their concept and management team. Second-rounders will have access to SBDC staff and business mentors to help review their business plans.

    “By early August, the Challenge moves into its last round where we narrow down to our finalists and they make a live pitch presentation.  Finalists will be given five minutes in front of a panel of judges to pitch their business concept,” McKeehan said. “To guide participants on how to properly present their business plan, we are planning a workshop before the live pitch event.”

    McKeehan is seeking individuals or businesses that would like to get involved in sponsoring the competition or providing other support. He said he expects to officially announce the Challenge in late March and open the application process in April with the goal of making 2015 more successful than last year.

    “We’re expanding our reach and getting more people involved this year,” him said. “I envision this as a long term effort that we can repeat many years with each building upon the success of the previous. We are extremely grateful to those individuals and organizations that supported us last year. The enthusiastic amount of participation and interest last year indicates the Metro East Startup Challenge has great potential going forward.”

Old Dutch Classic Bats is Metro East Startup Challenge Winner

SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge 04-28-14
Photo:  Jim Pennekamp, executive director of University Park at SIUE, presents the Metro East Startup Challenge winner’s check to Todd “Dutch” Eschman, founder of Old Dutch Classic Bats.

A vintage baseball bat manufacturer and a grain-to-glass distiller captured first and second place in the Metro East Startup Challenge, the first regional business plan competition conducted for entrepreneurs in Southwestern Illinois.

Plucked from a diverse array of Metro East startups, sole proprietor Todd “Dutch” Eschman, founder of Old Dutch Classic Bats in Swansea, nabbed the $10,000 first prize. Eschman’s firm manufactures custom baseball bats for vintage baseball players, those who wear period reproduction uniforms and follow the rules and customs of the game as it was played in the mid-to-late 1800s.

Adam Stumpf, president and CEO of Stumpy’s Spirits Co., secured second place and $5,000. The start-up distillery is located on the seventh generation family farm in Columbia. The distillery will produce spirits using grain produced on the family farm.

University Park at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville sponsored the event, with PNC Bank and the St. Louis Regional Chamber serving as award sponsors. The SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge is designed to recognize and reward excellence in entrepreneurship.

More than 30 innovative entrepreneurs from the Metro East Small Business Development Center’s nine-county service area competed in the three-stage event. Entrants submitted their initial applications in mid-February. Fifteen semifinalists were invited to submit full business plans which were  evaluated by a team of ten volunteer judges. 

Six business teams were selected to make a final presentation. Over the past several weeks, SBDC staff provided workshops and individual counseling support to help the contestants prepare for the final two rounds of competition.

On Monday, April 28, the finalists delivered three-minute pitches to a panel of expert judges followed by five minutes of questions and answers. The winners were announced in front of the live audience.

The competition judges were John Navin, interim dean of the Business School at SIUE, Mitch Meyers, partner in The Proof Agency and SIUE Foundation Board member, and Jay Delong, vice president of New Ventures and Capital Formation at the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

Jim Pennekamp, executive director of University Park, said the caliber of entrants in the inaugural competition was impressive.

“Entrepreneurship is a key economic development strategy” said Pennekamp. “SIUE is providing leadership and support for entrepreneurs while advancing the academic mission of the University by strengthening relationships with private enterprise and expanding learning opportunities for students and faculty.

“We’re delighted with the response and with the quality and creativity of those who competed. Congratulations to our winners, and to all six finalists.”

Other finalists who presented at the live round included: Working Class Benefits LLC (Joseph Culver) in Granite City; BonafID Catch (Joan Stader and Charles Murphree) in Alton; Vet Check-in (Joe Wayman) of Highland; and Broadway Billboards (David Lindsey) in Maryville.

Patrick McKeehan, director of the Metro East SBDC with offices in Edwardsville and East St. Louis, said the competition successfully met its four goals.

“We worked extremely hard to increase the region’s interest in and excitement for business start-ups through a competitive process,” McKeehan said. “We also identified ‘high-impact’ start-ups for possible location in University Park’s new Business Enterprise Center.

“We sought to generate a greater awareness of the Metro East SBDC’s services as well as the wealth of resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners across our region. Thanks to University Park at SIUE, SIUE’s School of Business, our award sponsors, supporters and competitors, we accomplished those goals. We look forward to making this an annual competition.”

The SBDC is a service to the community supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the SIUE School of Business.

SIUE operates two Small Business Development Centers and the International Trade Center. All centers provide resources and information to entrepreneurs, business owners, small business service providers and the University community located in the Metro East region which includes Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph counties.

By assisting entrepreneurs and companies in defining their path to success, the SBDC network positively impacts the Metro East by strengthening the business community, creating and retaining new jobs and encouraging new investment. It enhances the region’s economic interests by providing one-stop assistance to individuals by means of counseling, training, research and advocacy for new ventures and existing small businesses. When appropriate, the SBDC strives to affiliate its ties to the region to support the goals and objectives of both the SIUE School of Business and the University at large.

Semifinalists Chosen in SIUE 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 the Metro East’s very first regional business plan competition.

Organized and launched by University Park at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge seeks to identify, foster and reward entrepreneurship and innovation in three key sectors: information technology, manufacturing and health sciences/services.

More than 100 entrepreneurs expressed interest in the regional competition, according to Patrick McKeehan, director of the Metro East SBDC and Challenge coordinator. Almost one-third of these individuals completed the entry process and half were invited to participate in the next round.

 “We’re extremely pleased with the level of interest in our region’s first business plan contest,” McKeehan said. “There has been a robust outpouring of enthusiasm about the Challenge from applicants, community leaders and our small business development partners. Although only fifteen remain eligible for the $10,000 cash prize, we encourage everyone that considered or entered the Challenge to access the SBDC’s wide menu of resources and expertise.”

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

Competitors have until Monday, March 31 to submit their business plans and financial statements. Based on these submissions, judges will select 3-5 finalists who will pitch their business concept on Monday, April 28 to a special panel of judges. The winners will be announced immediately following the pitch presentations. First place is worth $10,000, and second place is $5,000. Winners may also be given the opportunity to use start-up office space in University Park at SIUE.

Jim Pennekamp, executive director of University Park at SIUE and Start-Up Challenge organizer, points to how the competition aligns with key goals for the Park. He noted it advances the academic mission of the University by strengthening relationships with private enterprise, while expanding learning opportunities for both students and faculty. 

“The SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge creates the opportunity to engage with the region in cultivating an important economic development strategy,” said Pennekamp.

Additional competition sponsors are the St. Louis Regional Chamber, PNC Bank and SIUE’s School of Business.  The Metro East SBDC at SIUE is functioning as the Challenge administrator.

The 2014 Metro East Start-Up Challenge semifinalists include,

  • A Little Help (Collinsville, IL)
  • Arch Enemy Interactive  (Wood River, IL)
  • Broadway Billboards (Maryville, IL)
  • ciinvent  (Bridgeton, MO)
  • Code 3 Spices (Maryville, IL)
  • (Edwardsville, IL)
  • Ju Ju Brewing (Edwardsville, IL)
  • Mainspring Technologies (Granite City, IL)
  • Nationwide Veterinary Group, LLC dba Vet Check-in (Highland, IL)
  • Old Dutch Classic Bats (Belleville, IL)
  • Pet Cooler Carrier, LLC (Troy, IL)
  • Stith, LLC (Edwardsville, IL)
  • Stumpy’s Spirits Co. (Columbia, IL)
  • TRL-5 LABS dba BonafID Catch  (Alton, IL)
  • Working Class Benefits LLC (Granite City, IL)

The Metro East SBDC, with offices in Edwardsville and East St. Louis, is a service to the community supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the SIUE Edwardsville School of Business. For more information about the Metro East SBDC, contact (618) 650-2929 or

University Park at SIUE is a 330-acre technology park located on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). The Park offers business and industry an ideal suburban location on a thriving university campus. Tenants are close to valuable human resources, including a capable base of student interns, a highly skilled pool of potential employees and faculty researchers.  For more information, contact (618) 659-9300 or visit


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