EDWARDSVILLE, IL - 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)

Eatkidfriendly.com (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 sbdcedw@gmail.com.

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 www.siue.edu/universitypark.

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