With a grant from the Citi Foundation, Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council (BREC) and the Tech 20/20 Center for Entrepreneurial Growth (CEG) have partnered in the BREC Breakthrough Business Challenge program to assist both startups and existing businesses looking to expand. This two-part program includes a business plan competition and a strategic assistance program designed to find and support Western North Carolina’s next breakthrough business ventures.
Between now and Sept. 16, those seeking to start a company or grow an existing small business can apply to participate in the BREC Breakthrough Business Challenge, which is offered free of charge to selected companies.
“The BREC Breakthrough Business Challenge is designed to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs with the key decision to get a company started or successfully move it to the next level,” said Matt Raker, vice president of entrepreneurship and the Advantage- Green program at AdvantageWest. “We are excited to partner with Tech 20/20’s Center for Entrepreneurial Growth to assist potential high-growth companies in efforts to help more entrepreneurs spur job and equity creation here in Western North Carolina.”
The first phase of the program focuses on sharpening the business model and helping the company develop plans to grow. It is designed to help participants develop viable and sustainable business strategies and models, as well as the communications capabilities and materials needed to obtain the funding that any company needs for the future. This will include a series of group and one-on-one mentoring and coaching sessions – up to 12 hours per venture – where seasoned entrepreneurs and business professionals will help the management team at each company develop strategies, goals and plans in preparing for the demands of starting or growing a business.
“Since 1995, we have helped client companies create or sustain nearly 2,500 jobs and had a total economic impact of more than $305 million in the region,” said John Morris, vice president of the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth at Tech 20/20. “It’s a great opportunity for businesses to explore funding opportunities and create a solid plan to move forward.”
Group sessions will cover such topics as small business strategic planning, building a sustainable business model and plan, identifying one’s target market, market research, building a credible funding plan, finding funding sources and presenting one’s business to investors or loan officers.
The second phase of the program is a business plan competition where a panel of experienced judges will review all of the submissions and select the top businesses to win cash and in-kind prizes.
CEG Program Director Todd Fisher said companies that qualify will be eligible to win a first-place, $5,000 cash prize. Two runnersup will receive $2,500 each. All winners will be eligible for additional services from regional business development resources and may be invited to present at the Carolina Connect (Asheville, N.C.) and Innovation Imperative (Knoxville, Tenn.) entrepreneurship conferences.
The program is open to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees and less than $1 million in revenue that are in an early or growth stage of development and have a product or service business ready for growth. Additionally, entrepreneurs or individuals who are interested in starting a business with an idea for a product or service that can sustain a rapid growth rate are eligible to apply.
Participants in the program must commit to attending the classes and mentoring/ coaching sessions, put forth an honest effort to execute the plans and actions to achieve the determined goals, and provide BREC and Tech 20/20 with performance indicators such as number of employees, payroll, revenue, and capital raised, for up to three years after the program.
Those interested in the BREC Breakthrough Business Challenge can visit www.brecnc.com for information and an application. Deadline for submission is Sept. 16.
For more information about the program, contact Matt Raker at (828) 687-7234 or Todd Fisher at (865) 228-4853.
About Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council
Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council, or BREC, is an initiative of AdvantageWest, the regional economic development partnership for the 23 westernmost counties of N.C. BREC is a nurturing organization for entrepreneurs in the region that focuses on education, networking, mentoring, communications and capital formation. BREC has helped local businesses raise capital, brought private equity investors to Western North Carolina to evaluate businesses, hosted venture capital conferences, and recruited businesses with high-growth potential to the region.
About Tech 20/20
Tech 20/20 was chartered as a nonprofit public benefit corporation in 1995 and has been engaged in educational and entrepreneurial activities to stimulate economic growth throughout Tennessee and the multistate Appalachian corridor. The Center for Entrepreneurial Growth (CEG) has programs for commercialization of technology at Oak Ridge National Labs and UT and has implemented entrepreneurial development programs at A-B Technical Community College, in Asheville, and Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, in London, Ky.