After taking a year off, Start Garden is bringing back a business pitch competition that awards $1,000 to 100 contestants and $20,000 to 10 finalists.
The Start Garden 100 begins accepting pitches today from entrepreneurs who are asked to submit a 90-second video describing their idea. Start Garden will accept entries through July 26.
Judges will select 100 entrepreneurs who will receive $1,000 to pursue their idea over two months and present at a Demo Day competition on Oct. 2. Ten winners chosen that day will then get $20,000 to support their business. Start Garden also will award $5,000 to a high school student or team.
“It’s always been a platform for anybody who wants to get an idea off of the ground to do it,” Start Garden co-director Paul Moore said.
The last competition in 2019 attracted 772 entries. Start Garden this year is expecting 1,000 entries, Moore said.
“The competition is going to be intense. There are certain entrepreneurs that are already reaching out,” he said. “There are some hard-core people coming out.”
Start Garden is looking for entries from across the economic spectrum, including from food service, retail and technology, Moore said. The 2019 Demo Day competition awarded finalists with a range of products and services, including food and drink, online platforms and services, and manufacturing.
In addition to the money, candidates and finalists can tap Start Garden’s network for support in building their business.
The 100 business competition resumes this year for a third season after Start Garden last year re-directed funding in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and state-ordered restrictions and closings to a relief effort called the 100 Comeback. The effort received 430 submissions and Start Garden distributed $300,000 in small grants to 68 entrepreneurs.
“Last year was not a time to try to get new entrepreneurs off the ground. It was a time to try to salvage the existing entrepreneurs who were slammed in April with no revenue and their first bills coming due,” Moore said. “This year it feels like, ‘Alright, we are able to get back to people with new ideas or existing businesses that see new opportunities they want to explore. It’s time to get back to just starting things.”
In the first three iterations of The 100, Start Garden has been able to attract diverse entries by reaching out into neighborhoods and working with local organizations.
A little more than half of the 2019 finalists were women and nearly two-thirds were from minority groups.
“Our goal has always been to make sure that every single neighborhood is reached, so we’re very intentional about marketing into underrepresented neighborhoods to make sure we’re getting ideas from there,” Moore said.
An analysis of the 2019 competition found that entries gained no advantage or disadvantage based on where they live, their education level or their household income.
“It’s a truly level playing field,” Start Garden co-director Darel Ross said. “All you have to bring is your hustle.”