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Entrepreneurial competition might help promote startups

Winner could get cash prize

DIXON – In an effort to encourage new businesses, Mayor Jim Burke is trying to bring a competition to town.

On Tuesday, Burke held a meeting with representatives from various business and organizations, such as Sauk Valley Community College, Midland States Bank and Lee County Economic Development, among others, at the public safety building to get a presentation from Venture Advisors, a St. Louis-based company.

Venture Advisors proposed bringing a competition, the Startup Success Competition, to Dixon as a way to spur entrepreneurial development, said Lee Crockett, a senior mentor with the company.

The competition also gives residents with a business idea the tools needed to develop the idea into a business plan and actual business, Crockett said.

Most successful businesses start out small, Burke said.

“What we really want to do is create an entrepreneurial ambiance in this area,” he said. “And this is one way to start it.”

As part of the overall competition program, Venture Advisors hosts workshops, Crockett said, where the entrepreneurs learn the best way to translate their idea into a business proposal summary – about five pages long. 

Then, he said, finalists will be chosen to present their business idea to a panel of local judges during a public event. 

The winner of the competition can be awarded a cash prize, Crockett said, or even free rent in a downtown storefront for a year.

The cash prizes don’t have to be in the $50,000 range, he said, in order to get the interest in the competition, adding that $5,000 could be plenty.

The cost for Venture Advisors to run the competition and workshops is about $10,000, Crockett said.

That money, Burke said, could hopefully be raised among the half-dozen organizations that were represented during the initial meeting. The prize money for first, second and third place, he said, will also have to be raised by local businesses or organizations.

The benefit for the city, local economy and businesses, Crockett said, was a potential influx of success businesses.

A final decision hasn’t been made about the competition, Burke said Thursday, and additional discussions and meetings might be held.

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