An Entrepreneur Challenge is a competitive process for potential and emerging entrepreneurs that provides business training, mentorship, networking opportunities, and an improved level of coordinated resources and community support. The competitions raise awareness of Southwest Virginia entrepreneurial opportunities and typically offer investment grants to top competitors following a pitch event and submission of a business plan.
Since 2012, the Southwest Virginia region has held 36 competitions with over 290 program graduates.
Start your own competition!
Communities across Southwest Virginia are joining the trend and supporting entrepreneurial development by hosting business plan competitions. Through entrepreneur challenges, communities can show their support for small businesses by providing emerging or existing entrepreneurs with training, mentorship, and an improved level of coordinated resources. Coordinating a competition can be accomplished by following a simple process and using the abundant resources available in the region.
Use the My SWVA Opportunity Entrepreneur Challenge Toolkit to host a competition in your community!
Learn more about funding resources available through the Community Business Launch program.
Entrepreneur Competitions in the Regions
As the first regional business plan competition in Southwest Virginia, the 2013 Entrepreneur Challenge was a seven month competition encompassing the Coalfield region of Southwest Virginia to include 7 counties and 1 city. Sponsored by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the program provided over $30,000 in award funds to entrepreneurs in SWVA to start a new business or expand an existing business. The program graduated eleven regional entrepreneurs and consisted of structured business training, business plan development, networking events, mentoring program, and a community incentives program.
The Better Business Basics Plus (BBBp) program was developed by the Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and Virginia Tourism Corporation. The 2015 program consisted of a six week intensive business training course that culminated with a business plan competition in which participants competed for grant money and additional prizes worth over $5,000.
Launch something Pulaski is a downtown economic revitalization project aimed at supporting new business formation and expansion in the downtown business district and beyond. Through a highly competitive and rigorous process, Launch Something Pulaski awards investment grants and in-kind prize packages to new businesses.
The Blue Ridge Crossroads Small Business Development Center, the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority, and Grayson County partnered in 2015 to offer entrepreneurial contest.
The Norton Business Challenge was a competitive process for new entrepreneurial ventures and existing businesses looking to expand with additional job creation in Norton City Limits.
Modeled after the 2013 My Southwest Virginia Opportunity Entrepreneur Challenge, the Opportunity Cup was a level II entrepreneur challenge for existing businesses looking to expand with additional job creation in Southwest Virginia. Given the number of new local competitions since 2013, the Cup accepted businesses in Southwest Virginia who graduated from qualifying regional business challenges in Planning District Commissions 1, 2 and 3.
People Incorporated is a non-profit Community Action Agency and Community Development Corporation committed to providing opportunities for people to reach their goals in order to enhance their lives, families, and communities. People Incorporated develops programs and strategies that are designed to move people and communities into the economic mainstream. In 2014, People Incorporated coordinated four regional business plan competitions in the Coalfields of Southwest Virginia.
Marion’s Community and Economic Development Department offers a five -week class designed for new business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business and have a basic understanding of developing a business plan, or have previously completed one of our “Boot Camps” and are still interested in starting a business. The intense pace of this class takes four(4) weeks to explore in-depth four of the major concepts of small business success presented by local experts in each of the three topics. On the final night of class, individuals who are interested in the grant opportunities will present their plans to be eligible for up to $5,000 in grant monies to assist with starting your own business!
The Chamber of Commerce of Smyth County offers an eight-week boot camp for entrepreneurs who have an idea to open a business in Smyth County or who are expanding their current operations.
Downtown Wytheville, Inc. and the Joint Industrial Development Authority of Wythe County are partner to offer the Startup Wythe In – Business Idea Competition. Startup Wythe In is designed to encourage and develop an entrepreneurial spirit by mentoring participants through business plan development for innovative business ideas. Startup Wythe In empowers participants to establish new business ventures and create local jobs.
The Washington County Business Challenge is a competitive completion for start-up and existing businesses looking to expand with additional job creation in Washington County, Virginia, Town of Abingdon, Town of Glade Spring or Town of Damascus.