Mandan’s second Business Pitch Challenge will build on the success of the 2018 contest, from which more than half of the entrants have opened or announced the opening of a business in the city.
The first challenge drew statewide attention and helped in identifying people interested in opening businesses, said Mandan Business Development and Communications Director Ellen Huber. The competition also provided motivation for people considering starting a business.
“It really just helped them get off the dime and take action,” Huber said. “Deadlines help us all get things done.”
The challenge is hosted by the Mandan Tomorrow-Economic Opportunity and Prosperity Committee. Last year’s winner was Nordic Steel Building Systems. A residential developer in Reno, Nev., recently constructed homes using Nordic Steel’s exterior wall system. Co-owner Jared Stover said he and Juan Carlos Dominguez saw the challenge as an opportunity to get additional support and input from the community to help validate their idea.
"One of the biggest things was hearing it from a third party, the judges, that we're onto something," Stover said. The prize package was a big help too, he said, as was the additional exposure for their product.
Runner-up Kimberly Bloms on July 1 opened Kids In Motion Pediatric Therapy and Wellness on Main Street. Other entrants in 2018 were Old Ten Bar and Grill and Balancing Goat Coffee Co., both of which will open later this year. Copper Dog Café opened July 1 on West Main Street, and Woodblock Media operates from a Bismarck base.
Contestants enter through an application process that includes an executive summary of their business plan. A selection committee of five people narrows the field to four finalists. The applications are judged on thoroughness, creativity, market fit and other criteria, including the potential impact of the business on Mandan.
“Is it something wanted or needed by visitors and residents in Mandan,” Huber said.
Finalists have the opportunity to use feedback from the selection committee and the expertise of sponsoring organizations as they prepare for a presentation to pitch their ideas. A fresh panel of at least four will judge the presentations.
The winner will receive $750 in cash and the chance to be eligible for a $10,000 forgivable loan from the Mandan Growth Fund. To be eligible, the winner must open a business in Mandan or the area by Dec. 31, 2020. The loan is forgivable if the business doesn’t move out of the area for five years. The money can be used to pay for real estate, marketing or any of the expenses of launching a business.
The entry deadline is Oct. 1. The Business Pitch Challenge presentations will be made on Nov. 12.
Huber said the feedback from last year’s contest was “tremendous.”
“Anybody that watched the challenge found it inspiring,” Huber said. “It put Mandan on the map regionally as a community that wants to help businesses start up.”
The committee on Sept. 10 will host its seventh annual Business Start-up 101 workshop at Harvest Catering and Events. The free event is an informal question-and-answer session, and a Business Pitch Challenge selection committee member and a judging panel member will be in attendance.