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Entrepreneurs Cashing In — New Pueblo competition to reward promising businesses

By Rob Donovan

Creating opportunity, diversifying the economy, investing in the future of the community. These are among the many hopes of the first annual Entrepreneurial Business Plan Competition hosted by the Healy Center of Colorado State University-Pueblo and Junior Achievement of Pueblo. 

The intention behind the competition is to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and action in Pueblo County. And as Kurt Madic, a major driving force in starting the event, believes, “one idea changes everything.” 

The youth and adult division prizes, which have been combined, include a scholarship, cash prizes, accounts, in-kind benefits, and possible venture capital seed money reaching up to $1.5 million.

Being a frequent viewer of the television series Shark Tank, Madic wanted to explore the show’s concept within Pueblo County. Collaborating with Mike Wakefield, a business professor at CSU-Pueblo, the two combined contacts and started what they envision to be an annual event that might help foster the establishment and growth of some “40 or 50 businesses” a decade from now, “a win-win for everyone” says Madic. 

Ideally, five years from now, the organizers would like to see successful entrepreneurs entering as judges for the competition and showcasing their success achieved through the help of the events’ supporters. 

As a Pueblo native and Business Process Improvement Expert for Hewlett-Packard, Madic is interested in bringing rise to the potential lying dormant within the community of Pueblo. He’s been serving on the Junior Achievement board for five years and teaches financial literacy and entrepreneurship in schools throughout the city, which gives him a good insight into how to inspire Pueblo’s youth. 

He said he recognizes Pueblo as a “great place to live, but hard.” Madic wants to see an increase in the city’s desirability, particularly for the younger generations. Understanding the necessity for increased availability of opportunity, the competition might serve as one viable option for “keeping our best and brightest people in town,” he said.

Eligibility for entering the competition is open to any individual enrolled in a Pueblo County School. This includes, but is not limited to, Pueblo City Schools (District 60), District 70, home school, charter school or online school. 

For this portion of the competition registration is free, requiring only the name, age, email address, mailing address, telephone number and respective school, the participant is currently enrolled/attending. 

For adults, a $20  registration fee is required. In both segments participants will submit one business plan belonging to one author to whom any and all prizes will be awarded. Those entering must enter original work and can’t infringe on any intellectual property rights of others. 

For finalists, any agreement made between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists during the live portion of the show are “good faith offers” and only a written contract will constitute a legally binding agreement.

Deadline for registration is Feb. 15 and business plans must be submitted by Feb. 28. Then, the organizers of the event will host a live recording on April 5. A panel of judges will be vying for investment in potentially lucrative business ideas. 

As with any startup, the venture capitalists will be looking for a “good return without a huge amount of risk,” Wakefield says. 

Before the April finale, the pool of entries will be narrowed to five adult and four student business plans. With the scale of ideas ranging from major manufacturing to food production, ultimately the goal is to stimulate the local economy. 

Business plans likely not to be considered are those involving lounges, nightclubs, restaurants and any affiliation with the marijuana industry. Whether the business employs a couple of people or several dozen, the competition is open to anything art, retail, or healthcare-related, among many imaginable others. Any business plan focused on the Riverwalk area is particularly encouraged. 

With the support from various investment firms and venture capitalists around the city, a quality business idea could become a reality. That’s the hope for Wakefield and Madic. 

Both know starting a business is no easy task, but with this first annual competition Pueblo might see the grassroots development of localized economic growth. For more information and details regarding workshops to help formulate your plan, visit pueblobizplan.org.

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