July 28, 2008

New businesses can enter Innovate Illinois contest

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- With $100,000 available in the statewide 2008 Innovate Illinois competition, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center and the University Entrepreneurship Center in Centralia are seeking new businesses they can help in their quest for the cash.

It’s the fourth annual competition and there are two contest categories: early stage, for companies with an idea for an innovative product, service or process that will have a lasting economic impact on the state of Illinois; and late stage for new companies that have recently implemented an innovative product, service or process that is having a lasting economic impact in Illinois. Throughout the state, each entrepreneurship center will select a company from each stage to compete in the statewide contest for the $40,000 grand prize in each category. With 18 centers statewide, that’s 18 businesses entering each category, with the top 12 invited to Chicago Sept. 26 to present their plans. The six finalists in each category will return to Chicago Nov. 18 for the final competition. The winners of the early and late stage contests will each claim a $40,000 cash prize while first runners-up garner $10,000 prizes.

The Carbondale and Centralia entrepreneurship centers offer the expertise to help local businesses within southern and southeastern Illinois in their quest for the prize. Trained counselors can help complete the application process in short order. Providing advanced financial assistance and accelerated services to clients with high-growth potential is the purpose of the entrepreneurship centers.

The entrepreneurship centers have a long history of helping new and expanding businesses. Last year, they were able to secure Innovate Illinois awards for the Arthur Agency Inc. a Carbondale interactive advertising agency; So iLL, Inc., a De Soto company manufacturing hand and foot grips for artificial rock climbing walls; and Boon-Docks Equipment, a Herrin business designing and manufacturing farm implement solutions for clients in varied venues. This year’s Innovate Illinois funding process has changed, but the mission of encouraging small business growth remains unchanged.

Time is of the essence though. Applications for the 2008 Innovate Illinois competition are due no later than August 15. For assistance in applying for the competition or more information, contact the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center at 618/453-3805.