Grow America, a national company that helps create jobs and bolster local economies, has its sights set on Utah, and more specifically Park City. The company is in the third round of the Grow America Springboard Utah Fall competition where 150 Utah businesses eight from the Park City and Summit County area presented their business plans to an expert panel of judges in the hopes to win a portion of a $1 million prize in cash and services.
The prizes work like a grant, in which the winning businesses receive cash and services meant to help them expand.
The eight local businesses that made it into the third round, the last round before the finals, fit into all three categories the competition outlines, ideas, start-up and growth, which target businesses at different stages.
"A breakdown of the competition would be three categories: ideas, start up and growth," said Jed Malmberg the Director of Customer Engagement for Grow America. "The idea category is for someone who hasn't sold product yet but has probably registered the business. The start-up category covers what you typically think of for a start-up, an incorporated business that may or may not have sold some product. And the third category, the growth category, is for any business with incoming revenue between $30,000 and $5 million."
The springboard competition started this year, with the first competition held in the spring.
From popular snacks such as Yee-Haw Pickles to the crowd-sourced Recoil to the wine-education experts at the Culinary Wine Institute, the competition caught the attention of a number of businesses in Summit County. But even if none of the local applicants make it past the third round, business owners are still glad they entered.
Greg Schwarzer, co-owner of Recoil Winders, entered the start-up category. Recoil Winders are small devices that wind up loose wires, from headphones to television wires. The business got a boost earlier this year after a Kickstarter campaign helped the company finance finding retailers and producing the recoilers.
"This competition is great for businesses like ours because it makes you think about what you are and what you are trying to do," Schwarzer said, "and that could be how you make money or what your message is or even if the idea is compelling. This competition makes you think, 'How do we advance our idea?'"
Working on the business plan came in the first two rounds, where thousands of participating businesses were asked to submit an executive summary and a two-minute video with a business plan. Words were limited. Long-winded answers were shortened, made more concise for the competition.
the third round, finalists had answered more than 100 questions about their business and had direct access to mentoring and coaching sessions.In the third round, finalists had to present their ideas to a panel of judges composed of business leaders in the community, and were given only three minutes to do so.
"We presented Tuesday night, and we felt very encouraged," said Kirsten Fox of the Culinary Wine Institute. "The panel was extremely well-qualified in terms of their business backgrounds and having to nail that perfect pitch in three minutes, to define what you do to panel of experts, that was a great exercise.
"After, they ask questions and by way of those questions, you can understand if you have flushed enough out. It was not like a Shark Tank, maybe an experience where you could feel attacked. It was much more encouraging. You felt like they were savvy business advisers helping you along the way."
The Culinary Wine Institute submitted their application into the ideas category, hoping to receive funding for an online wine educational resource where restaurants could easily use the courses to train servers.
Andrew Cesati, co-owner of the Yee-Haw Pickle Company, said he also felt like the business plan got a much needed makeover by the third round.
"I think going through process has been super helpful," Cesati said. "Whether we win or not, we are better off for the process."
"This has made us more dialed in," he added, "just going through this has helped us identify areas of our business plan, areas where we may need to improve or clarify."
The nine finalists will be chosen next week and will compete in their respective categories Nov. 1 at a live event. For more information about the event, visit www.growam.com/springboard.