STEUBENVILLE - The Muskingum County Business Incubator is looking for individuals who have an idea for a new, unique business or service to enter the annual Big Ideas contest.
Big Ideas, now in its sixth year, is a way for development specialists to identify businesses and entrepreneurs who have innovative ideas that could, with proper planning, go to market. It's been a regional competition the past three years, working locally with Progress Alliance to boost awareness and involvement.
MCBI Regional Director Jessica Sherman said the deadline to apply is midnight May 5.
"It can be an innovative, unique idea for something that may not be in the marketplace now, or it could be two separate ideas that you can combine into one new thing," she said, noting the "best ideas are solutions to problems."
"For instance, in Zanesville two sheriff's deputies who were members of the SWAT team, developed tactical gloves with pressured lights that they can wear while they're on duty," eliminating the need to carry bulky police-issued flashlights that, in some situations, could be used as a weapon against them, she said. "They took two existing ideas - a glove and a flashlight - that alone weren't unique, but packaging them together created something unique."
The contest will be judged by area professionals with a proven track record in business, "people who know a good idea when they hear it," she said. The process is strictly confidential, and the ideas and information that are submitted are not shared.
"In the past we've averaged between 40 and 50 applicants," she said. "We're hoping to get a higher number than that this year."
The winner will get a $1,000 prize along with business services, including the opportunity to take the Business Plan Workshop series - a $500 value - without charge. That means they'll have a chance to figure what they'd have to do to get their idea from concept to the marketplace.
MCBI also does a business plan competition in the fall that packs a $5,000 prize plus additional workshops.
"It's really about economic development, creating new jobs and businesses," she said.
"We're in the business of helping small businesses and entrepreneurs to realize their dreams. Entering the contest is really just the beginning. We'll still be able to assist them with their business plan, help them set goals and meet with them regularly to see if they've met their goals and connect them with mentors."
MCBI's "Big Ideas" contest is open to individuals age 18 and older who live or work in Belmont, Carroll, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum or Noble counties.
Information, including the application, may be found at www.mcbi.info.