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

News - 2020

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Art Sculpt International is 2020 SIUE SBDC Metro East Start-Up Challenge Winner

October 30, 2020, 11:20 AM

SBDC-MESC

ArtSculpt International, of Fairview Heights, is the winner of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for the Metro East at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s seventh annual Metro East Startup Challenge (MESC).  The 2020 business plan competition attracted more than 25 entrepreneurs to compete for award prizes totaling $20,000. 

ArtSculpt International, who received $10,000 for first place, is a mosaic tile art company in Fairview Heights and is owned by engineer David Kniepkamp and artist Catharine Magel. 

Representing Pushing Limits Inc., of Mulberry Grove, received $6,000 as the second-place winner.  Stephanie Blankenship is the owner of the heavy-duty diesel repair shop, serving transportation companies across the U.S.  

Sharp Coffee, of O’Fallon, earned $4,000 for third place. Brandon Belvin and his business partner John Ross showcased their product, RoomTap, an innovative business conference room reservation system.

New to 2020’s competition, and thanks to the generosity of Regions Bank, is the category of a fourth-place prize winner.  Jodie Ferguson, founder of Clara B’s Kitchen Table, took the $1,000 prize. She plans to grow her Belleville food truck business.

“We are impressed by the large number of superior quality concepts brought forth by the participants,” said Jo Ann DiMaggio May, director of the IL SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE. “It made the evaluation process and the awarding of prize money extremely difficult for reviewers and judges.”

The winners will also receive in-kind support from Carol Sparks, of Sparks Law in Troy, and accounting services from Kerber Eck & Braeckel LLP, of Edwardsville, to help form their businesses and manage start-up expenses. Other in-kind services include website design assistance from Tech Fusion, of Troy, cybersecurity/IT services from Global Enterprise Services, and co-working space for a set period of time at The Lodge in Edwardsville.

The top four teams will present their winning business concepts virtually before the Leadership Council of Southwestern Illinois (LCSWIL) board of directors meeting on Friday, Dec. 4. LCSWIL includes more than 200 leaders in business, industry, education, government and labor in southwestern Illinois.

May and SBDC Business Specialist Marti Wieland, along with SBDC’s graduate assistants, are enthused about the overall participation in the Challenge and the applicants’ business ideas and presentations.

 “Our goal is to continue to increase the awareness and reach of the Start-up Challenge’s vast opportunities,” May said. “The Challenge is becoming a recognized fixture in the region’s entrepreneurial community, and the Illinois SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE looks forward to its continued growth and success.” 

The IL SBDC for the Metro East organizes and manages the competition with the support of the SIUE School of Business, as well as from other business and economic development partners throughout its nine-county service area. 

Finalists in the 2020 MESC also included:

  • Air Eye, of Edwardsville
  • Amygdala Co., of Belleville
  • Denali Building Supply, of Edwardsville 

The Challenge is made possible through tremendous regional support. Sponsors include:  the SIUE School of Business, the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, Anders CPA & Advisors, America’s Central Port, Edwardsville Bank, Madison County Economic Development, the City of Edwardsville, National Development Council, Town and Country Bank (Edwardsville and Fairview Heights locations), City of Highland, Carrollton Bank, St. Clair County Economic Development, Growth Corp, the City of Alton, Regions Bank, Riverbend Growth Association, FCB Banks, Monroe County Economic Development Corporation, Commerce Bank, Barber Murphy Group, and University Park at SIUE.

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

By aiding 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. The SBDC enhances the region’s economic interests by providing one-stop assistance to individuals by means of advising, 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.

To learn more about the SBDC, contact the IL SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE at 618-650-2929.

Photo: (L-R) Jodie Ferguson and Benjamin Henning, of Clara B’s Kitchen Table;  Brandon Belvin, of Sharp Coffee; David Kniepkamp and Catherine Magel, of Art Sculpt International; and Stephanie Blankenship of Pushing Limits.

 

Finalists Chosen in SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge

October 22, 2020, 11:35 AM

MESC Logo

Seven Southwestern Illinois-based entrepreneurs and their innovative business concepts have been selected to move into the final round of the 2020 Metro East Start-Up Challenge (MESC), Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s 7th annual regional business plan competition.

More than 25 entrepreneurs expressed interest in the regional competition this year, according to Jo Ann DiMaggio May, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for the Metro East at SIUE and Challenge coordinator. Approximately half of the prospective competitors completed the entry process and were invited to participate.

“We’re extremely pleased with the sustained level of interest in our region’s business plan contest,” DiMaggio May said. “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 seven 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.”

The remaining part of the Challenge will require the finalists to present a 5-minute pitch in front of five judges. Ultimately, they must clearly define reasons why their business concept will be successful. The Metro East SBDC helped prepare the finalists by offering guidance and two pitch classes September.

Competitors will pitch on Thursday, Oct. 29 before a select panel of judges. The winners will be announced immediately following the pitch presentations.

The winning entry is worth $10,000. The runner-up receives $6,000 and third place is valued at $4,000. This year, Regions Bank is sponsoring a 4th place prize of $1,000.  An array of in-kind services also are provided to the top three competitors.

The 2020 Metro East Start-Up Challenge Finalists include:

  • Air Eye, of Edwardsville
  • Amygdala Co., of Belleville
  • Art Sculpt International, of Fairview Heights
  • Clara B’s Kitchen Table, of Belleville
  • Denali Building Supply, of Edwardsville
  • Pushing Limits, Inc., of Mulberry Grove
  • Sharp Coffee LLC, of O’Fallon

The Illinois SBDC for the Metro East 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.

By aiding 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.

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

 

Semifinalists Chosen in SIUE Metro East Start-Up Challenge

August 24, 2020, 4:00 PM

MESC LogoA dozen Southwestern Illinois-based entrepreneurs and their innovative business concepts have been selected to move into the second round of the 7th annual Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Metro East Start-Up Challenge (MESC) business plan competition.

More than 25 entrepreneurs expressed interest in the regional competition this year, according to Jo Ann Di Maggio May, Metro East SBDC director and MESC coordinator. About half of the individuals completed the entry process and were invited to participate in the next round.

“We’re extremely pleased with the sustained level of interest in our region’s business plan contest,” Di Maggio May said. “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 12 remain eligible for the $10,000 top cash prize, we encourage everyone who 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 concepts will be successful. The Metro East SBDC will offer guidance and support to semifinalists in the form of workshops throughout September.

Competitors have until Sunday, Oct. 4 to submit their business plans and financial statements. Judges will select seven finalists, who will pitch their business concept on Thursday, Oct. 29 to a select panel of judges. Winners will be announced immediately following the pitch presentations.

First place is worth $10,000, second place is $6,000 and third place is $4,000. This year, Regions Bank is sponsoring a fourth place prize. Winners are also offered an array of in-kind services. The semifinalists include:

  • Air Eye (Edwardsville)
  • Amygdala Co. (Belleville, IL.)
  • Art Sculpt International (Fairview Heights)
  • Boss Level Merch (Highland)
  • Clara B’s Kitchen Table (Belleville)
  • Denali Building Supply (Edwardsville)
  • Desk Guardian, LLC. (Belleville)
  • EDUrain (Edwardsville)
  • FitU (Cahokia)
  • MBrew (Godfrey)
  • Pushing Limits, Inc. (Mulberry Grove)
  • Sharp Coffee LLC (O’Fallon)

The Illinois SBDC for the Metro East 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.

By aiding 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.

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

 

2020 Metro East Start-Up Challenge Offers $20,000 in Prizes

June 30, 2020, 4:07 PM

2020 Metro East Start-Up Challenge Entrepreneurs and new business startups are invited to compete in the 2020 Metro East Start-Up Challenge (MESC), Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s 7th annual regional business plan competition.

The MESC is organized by the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for the Metro East at SIUE. The purpose of the MESC is to identify, encourage and support entrepreneurs and business startups across the SBDC’s service area, including Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph Counties.

For more information on the 2020 MESC or to initiate the application process, visit siue.edu/metroeaststartup. The initial entry deadline is Sunday, August 9. Semi-finalists will be announced Friday, August. 21. Finalists will be notified on Friday, Oct. 23.

The Challenge will announce its cash prize winners on Friday, Nov. 6 during the monthly Leadership Council SW IL meeting. The first-place winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize. Second and third place winners will receive $6,000 and $4,000, respectively.

Prize winners will also receive an array of in-kind professional services to include legal assistance from Carol Sparks, Attorney at Law; accounting services from Kerber Eck & Braeckel LLP (KEB); web design services by Tech Fusion; and co-working space at The Lodge. The Illinois SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE is looking to also secure other in-kind services to offer the three winners.

The Challenge is made possible through tremendous regional support. Sponsors include the SIUE School of Business, the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, Anders CPA & Advisors, America’s Central Port, Edwardsville Bank, Madison County Economic Development, the City of Edwardsville, National Development Council, Town and Country Bank (Edwardsville and Fairview Heights locations), City of Highland, Carrollton Bank, St. Clair County Economic Development, Growth Corp, the City of Alton, Riverbend Growth Association, FCB Banks, Monroe County Economic Development Corporation, Commerce Bank, Barber Murphy Group, and University Park at SIUE.

Scott Credit Union and Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Programs are this year’s Mentor-Semifinalists Networking Event Sponsors to be held at the newly renovated Gateway Center in Collinsville.

SIUE’s School of Business, the SBDC’s host organization, will assist with facilitating the competition.

“The Metro East Start-Up Challenge elevates the discussion of and support for entrepreneurship across our region,” said Jo Ann Di Maggio May, SBDC Director. “Interest in the annual Challenge continues to grow with each passing year.”

The 2020 MESC invites entrepreneurs and startup businesses from four target industries (but not limited to): information technology, manufacturing, healthcare and sustainable food. For a startup business enterprise to be eligible, it must have been established after April 30, 2017, and be headquartered in the SBDC’s nine-county service area. For pre-venture entrepreneurs, proposed new business operations will need to be located within the same nine counties.

Past winners are grateful to have competed, since the MESC positively and productively extended their business efforts, and strengthened their entrepreneurial journey.

Sharon and Michael Sabo’s Tricentum Technologies LLC, of Monroe County, earned $4,000 for third place in MESC 2019. Sharon describes the experience of being a competitor: “One of the many positive things I'd like to stress are the individuals to start with, specifically Paul, Martha and Jo Ann. They were incredibly supportive, you could always approach them with any question, and they always helped you think. The business plan was a huge part of this. I'm not going to even call it confidence building because confidence building indicates that you don't have confidence. I’m going to call it confidence discovery. Because discovering what you desire and what will drive you forward was what this competition provided. It was incredible. Since last year, we've achieved our patents and we've achieved our tool and die, so we have our die created. And that was partly possible through these award funds.”

Tyler Mueth and his five brothers won the MESC 2018. Their hydroponics company, Vast Produce, has kept them busy. “The business plan competition was a truly rewarding experience,” they said. “The opportunity to network and discuss our idea and business plan with industry experts and leaders of the community was invaluable. We continue to grow and learn with the help of the SBDC and leaders we met through the competition.”

“The competition is a great experience for anyone interested in owning their own business,” says Joshua Colclasure, owner of Pint Perfect, LLC. “I am happy we could be a part of something so awesome. After winning the competition in 2017, I have been able to launch my company and start taking on clients. We were excited then and we are even more so now. Going to the SBDC is easily one of the best decisions we have made for our company. Jo Ann is wonderful and is truly passionate about seeing others succeed on their path to entrepreneurship. I look forward to the long relationship to come with Jo Ann, her staff and the SBDC. It is truly incredible to have such support. The MESC competition is icing on the cake!”

“Although it was a lot of work to put together a thorough business plan, we are thankful that we took the time to do so and participate in the Challenge,” said 2015 third-place finisher Tammy Rahm, co-owner of Stubborn German Brewing Company. “It forced us to look at every detail of the business and plan its direction. Now that we’ve been open for a year, we’re in the process of reviewing the business plan and ensuring we’re on the right track.”

“The MESC was an invaluable experience,” said 2014 second-place finisher Adam Stumpf, owner of Stumpy’s Spirits. “It allowed us to hone our business plan and define a route to market before launching our distillery. Feedback from the judges was an integral part of guiding our business in its first year. Bootstrapping our distillery forced us to stretch every dollar we had, and the award provided by the MESC was a key part in getting our business off the ground.”

The MESC 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 entrepreneurial concept by submitting a full business plan. These semifinalists are paired with business professionals that will mentor them through the competition and potentially beyond. The last round is the “final pitch” in front of a panel of business experts.

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 sbdcedw@gmail.com.

 

 

For More Information
Contact the Illinois Small Business
Development Center (SBDC)
618-650-2929
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