From memberships to an international executive coaching organization to rent-free office space to professional coaching to free legal and patent services, Northwest Florida businesses are offering a wide range of in-kind gifts and services to bolster Innovation Awards finalists’ opportunities for success.
As the most lucrative business plan competition in Florida, the Innovation Awards is designed to reward startups that demonstrate clear paths to profitability and local jobs creation. Cash and prizes totaling $250,000 is enough of an incentive for most business plan competitions, but the Innovation Awards doesn't stop there. It provides finalists with a network of support that ensures their success once the competition is over.
Tiffany Sullivan, executive director of Innovation Coast, said creating a vibrant entrepreneurial community starts with ensuring individual success.
“We are so fortunate to have business leaders lending their expertise to finalists during the Innovation Awards process," she said. "Our goal is for contestants to emerge from the competition with core skills that enable them to thrive in a competitive business market."
Judges are currently reviewing the business plans for the 61 companies that registered for the Innovation Awards. Once the top three finalists from each category are selected by the end of March, the real work begins. The finalists will work closely with a business coach from the Florida SBDC Network to prepare speaking points and refine their message. On April 13, the companies will pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges, akin to the popular reality show “Shark Tank.” At the end of the day, eight companies will walk away with cash prizes and bragging rights of being named Innovation Award winners.
More than 20 companies have donated in-kind gifts and services, and stepped up to sponsor the Innovation Awards event on April 12 and 13 at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Hotel. Companies and individuals can also show their support by purchasing individual tickets for $100 to attend the two-day event or $1,000 for a table of up to 10 people.
University of West Florida's Office of Economic Development and Engagement – sponsoring first- and second-place post-revenue awards
Innovation Coast – sponsoring first-and second-place pre-revenue awards
Landrum HR – sponsoring first-place veterans award
AppRiver – sponsoring second-place veteran award and first place student award
Santa Rosa County Economic Development
City of Pensacola
Visit Pensacola - Event sponsor
City of Gulf Breeze
TechFarms – one-year membership to one company
Vistage International – keynote speaker and two, six-month executive coaching memberships to winner
Venture Hive Fort Walton Beach – six-month membership, plus services
Pensacola Socialdesk – work space membership
Co:Lab Pensacola – work space and other assistance
Florida SBDC Network – consulting services to finalists
J. Nevin Shaffer – patent law consulting services for each category winner
Kimberly Sullivan of Moore, Hill & Westmoreland Law – legal consulting services
LegalShield – 12-month legal consulting membership for each first-place winner.
To purchase tickets for the Innovation Awards, visit awards.innovationcoast.com/tickets. If you want to be a sponsor of the flagship event, please contact Tiffany Sullivan at (850) 380-8838.