‘Next Great Idea’ business competition set to begin

“The Next Great Idea: 2014 Oswego County Business Plan Competition”  is about to begin.

The competition culminates with  $25,000 awarded to the winner at an awards luncheon in November 2014, said Austin Wheelock, co-chair of the NGI Steering Committee.

The NGI competition will accept Business Concept Proposals Jan. 22 through April 11.

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 entrepreneurism and develop a solution for a problem many businesses find when getting started- access to equity 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 entrepreneurism in place,” he said.

Financial contributions that support this program come from the Richard S. Shineman Foundation of Oswego, Operation Oswego County, the Small Business Development Center at SUNY Oswego, Key Bank, and Pathfinder Bank.

In addition, the $25,000 equity prize can potentially be leveraged to borrow up to $250,000 in partnership with local banks, the County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency, the cities of Oswego and Fulton community development offices, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and other economic development agencies and programs.

Since the program began, it has made the dream of owning a business come true for two companies.

Lakeside Artisans Cooperative won the 2010 competition and Ocean Blue Technology, LLC, was the winner of the inaugural NGI competition in 2008.

Lakeside Artisans is a start-up, for-profit cooperative that has developed a retail and gallery showcase in Oswego’s Canal Commons to promote local artwork and artisans’ crafts. They have grown from a core group of six artists to more than 20 and continue to expand.

OBT, a Fulton-based manufacturing company, developed the DiveBud™ Scuba Safety Platform which is designed to be safer than its competitors and to appeal to the recreational and commercial diving market.

The DiveBud is a floating marker with a reflective flag and LED beacon that is tethered to the diver below.

The first phase of the 2014 NGI Competition will formally begin on Jan. 22 and the deadline for submitting proposals is April 11. The entire competition consists of three phases that will require the selected participants to develop full business plans and make their “pitch” in person to a panel of judges.

The judging panel will be composed of local bankers, business owners, venture capitalists and angel investors. This panel will determine which proposals will be selected to enter the subsequent phases culminating in the winner being chosen and honored at a luncheon in late 2014.

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 $25,000 prize winner come out of this, but several bankable, feasible business plans with confident entrepreneurs then everyone wins, especially Oswego County.”

For more information, visit the website at www.oswegocounty.org/ngi, which includes an overview of the event, the application, a competition timeline, guidelines, details on the $25,000 prize, sponsors, and partners.

You may also call Austin Wheelock at -343-1545 or email at ngi@oswegocounty.org.

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