Grant funds program for small businesses in WNC

Published 9:21 am Monday, August 22, 2011

Start-up businesses and existing businesses looking to expand have a new possible source of support in Western North Carolina.
With a grant from the Citi Foundation, the Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council (BREC) and the Tech20/20 Center for Entrepreneurial Growth (CEG) have partnered in the BREC Breakthrough Business Challenge program to assist WNC small businesses. This two-part program includes a business plan competition and a strategic assistance program that is designed to find and support Western North Carolina’s next breakthrough business ventures.
Between now and Sept. 16, 2011, those looking to start a company or grow an existing small business can apply to participate in the BREC Breakthrough Business Challenge, which is offered free of charge to selected companies.
“We are excited to partner with Tech 20/20’s Center for Entrepreneurial Growth to assist potential high growth companies in efforts to help more entrepreneurs spur job and equity creation here in Western North Carolina, said Matt Raker, vice president of Entrepreneurship & AdvantageGreen at AdvantageWest.”
The first phase of the program focuses on sharpening the business model and helping the company develop plans to grow. It is designed to help participants develop viable and sustainable business strategies and models, as well as the communications capabilities and materials needed to obtain the funding that any company needs for the future. This will include a series of group and one-on-one mentoring and coaching sessions with seasoned entrepreneurs and business professionals.
Up to 12 hours of individual mentoring and coaching sessions will be provided to help the management team develop strategies, goals, and plans to prepare for the demands of starting or growing a business.
“Since 1995, we have helped client companies create or sustain nearly 2,500 jobs and had a total economic impact of more than $305,000,000 in the region,” said John Morris, vice president of the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth at Tech20/20. “It’s a great opportunity for businesses to explore funding opportunities and create a solid plan to move forward.”
Group sessions will cover such topics as small business strategic planning, building a sustainable business model and plan, identifying your target market, market research, building a credible funding plan, finding funding sources, and presenting your business to investors or loan officers.
The second phase of the program is a business plan competition where a panel of experienced judges will select the top businesses to win cash and in-kind prizes.
Program director Todd Fisher said that companies that qualify will be able to win a first-place, $5,000 cash prize, and the two runner-ups will also receive $2,500 each. All winners will be eligible for additional services from regional business development resources and may be invited to present at the Carolina Connect (Asheville, N.C.) and Innovation Imperative Conference (Knoxville, Tenn.) entrepreneurship conferences.
The program is open to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees and less than $1 million in revenue that are in an early or growth stage of development and have a product or service business that is ready for growth.  Additionally, entrepreneurs with an idea for a product or service that can sustain a rapid growth rate are eligible to apply.
Participants in the program must commit to attending the classes and mentoring/coaching sessions, put forth an honest effort to execute the plans and actions to achieve the determined goals, and provide BREC and Tech 20/20 with performance indicators, such as number of employees, payroll, revenue, and capital raised for up to three years after the program.
Those interested in applying to participate in the program should visit and submit an application by Sept. 16.
For more information, visit or contact Matt Raker at (828) 687-7234 or Todd Fisher at (865) 228.4853.
The Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council, or BREC, is a program of AdvantageWest, western North Carolina’s regional economic development commission.
Tech 20/20 was chartered as a non-profit public benefit corporation in 1995 and has been engaged in educational and entrepreneurial activities to stimulate economic growth throughout Tennessee and the multi-state Appalachian corridor. The Center for Entrepreneurial Growth has programs for commercialization of technology at Oak Ridge National Labs and the University of Tennessee and has implemented entrepreneurial development programs at A-B Tech Community College in Asheville, N.C., and Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation in London, Ky.
– article submitted

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