Â Â Â Â Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network, a non-profit organization located in Greensboro, North Carolina, hosts the annual Growth Accelerator Program contest. The current version of the contest is derived from three previous contests: SPARK Business Concept, VERGE Preliminary Business Plan and FUEL Comprehensive Business Plan.
Â Â Â Â The Growth Accelerator Program contest is limited to new businesses who want to begin operations in Piedmont Triad region counties (Alamance, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Montgomery, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin).
Â Â Â Â Each year, three winning companies are given $30,000 apiece to help with start-up costs. This money is spaced out over 18 months as companies achieve milestones, with only $10,000 given out at a time. Prizes also include free incubator space and reduced-cost legal services, accounting services and public relations.
Â Â Â Â Additionally, new entrepreneurs are mentored by some of the region’s top business executives. PTEN’s Interim CEO/VP Programs Jon Obermeyer described the value of this mentoring process by saying the competition “gives the early stage company executives a chance to work one-on-one and in small groups with professionals in finance, law, marketing, human resources and venture investing. It is where tough questions get answered and informed business decisions can be reached.”
Â Â Â Â The process of becoming a Growth Accelerator Program winner takes several months. Initial plans are submitted in the fall of each year. These are one-page executive summaries that describe the basics of the business: the need in the community, the idea for how the business will fill that need, the products or services the potential business will provide, the principal members of the organization and their credentials, a rough idea of the financial operations of the business, and what capital investment they will ask for.
Â Â Â Â After Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network judges screen the summaries, they choose ten finalists in December. These finalists spend the next four months with connecting with mentors, taking FastTrac Tech classes at Forsyth Technical Community College, and fleshing out their executive summaries to full-blown 20-page business plans, which are submitted in April.
Â Â Â Â Final judging occurs after in-person presentations in April, based on the originality of their ideas, their plans for the business and their potential as an employer of hundreds of employees in the near future.
Â Â Â Â The Celebration of Entrepreneurs awards ceremony honoring the three winners happens in May. By July, new businesses have their first $10,000 contribution from the Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network.