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February 5, 2021

Oswego County's 'Next Great Idea' Call for Entries

“The Next Great Idea Oswego County Business Plan Competition” (NGI) is calling for entries for this year’s competition which culminates with $80,000 in prizes, said NGI Chairperson Austin Wheelock, deputy director for Operation Oswego County (OOC). The NGI competition will begin accepting Business Concept Proposals now through April 30th, 2021.

The Next Great Idea Oswego County Business Plan Competition began in 2008 when economic development officials along with business and community leaders came together to develop a program to encourage entrepreneurship and develop a solution for a problem many businesses find when getting started- access to seed capital.

“We knew we had a lot of great business ideas in the community but the recurring obstacle we kept finding when trying to assist businesses was a lack of equity or companies to get off the ground or to go to a bank and obtain traditional financing,” Wheelock added. “We were losing companies and talented entrepreneurs to locations that had these types of programs and cultures of entrepreneurship in place.”

The most recent NGI competition winner, Wired Telcom, an IT and communications installer and service provider specializing in franchise businesses, was awarded $50,000 in 2018. Other winners include ArcoArt, who won the 2014 competition, Lakeside Artisans Cooperative in 2010, and Ocean Blue Technology, LLC, in 2008. Lakeside Artisans, now known as Riverside Artisans, is a for-profit art cooperative that has developed a retail showcase in Oswego’s downtown Canal Commons to promote local artwork and artisans’ crafts.

“We’re excited this year to offer $50,000 in seed capital to the overall winner. The second and third place winners will receive a combination of seed capital and in-kind business services worth $20,000 and $10,000, respectively. We feel growing the competition in this way will help attract even bigger and better ideas to the competition and show the region and beyond that we are serious about encouraging entrepreneurship in Oswego County.”

The entire competition will consist of three phases, starting with the Business Concept Proposal which will be due by April 30, 2021. From these, judges will select semi-finalists to move on to develop full business plans due in September 2021. The NGI competition culminates with the selected finalists making their “pitch” to a panel of judges in November 2021. The judging panel will be composed of local bankers, entrepreneurs, business service professionals, and investors. Ideas that are not selected will receive written feedback from the judges of how to improve their proposals for the future and referrals to other programs and organizations that could assist based on their needs.

“We’ve designed the NGI program in a way to benefit all the participants involved, not just the ultimate winners of the competition,” Wheelock said. “If we not only have three prize winners come out of this, but also many other bankable, feasible business plans with confident entrepreneurs then everyone wins, especially Oswego County.”

NGI is funded in part by the Richard S. Shineman Foundation as well as financial and in-kind contributions from many other local businesses, organizations, and individuals. The mission of the Richard S. Shineman Foundation is to be a Catalyst for Change to enhance the quality of life in Oswego County. The Foundation will use its resources to stimulate economic vitality, to encourage strong bonds that strengthen the community, and to build the capacity of its not-for-profit partners. In addition, the seed capital can potentially be leveraged to borrow up to $250,000 in partnership with local banks, Operation Oswego County, Inc., the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency, the cities of Oswego and Fulton community development offices, and other partner economic development agencies.

The competition web site, http://www.oswegocounty.org/NGI/index.htm, includes an overview of the event, competition timeline, application guidelines, sponsors, partners and contact information. For more information, NGI Chair Austin Wheelock can be contacted at 315-343-1545 or at ngioswegocounty@gmail.com.