‘Shark Tank’-style competition in Steamboat helps turn ideas into profitable businesses
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Finding the right concept for a new business takes inspiration, and Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center manager Randy Rudasics believes the path to turning those ideas into reality is paved by education.
It’s a big reason he supports the community business plan competition that is hosted annually by the entrepreneurship center, which is based at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.
“Our goal is to improve the education of the entrepreneurs in the community, and I believe that we have achieved that 100 percent,” Rudasics said. “We have helped people make better business decisions and plan more effectively for their startups, which probably reduced their risk and reduced their cost to get the business going.”
Rudasics has played a major role in organizing the business plan competition for the past six years. Previous winners of the competition have included: Chill Angel, which specializes in merino wool sleepwear; Grasssticks, which makes bamboo ski poles; Balance Rider, which produces a patented equine training device; Nelson Colorado, which manufactures outdoor apparel; and Mountain Pine Manufacturing, which repurposes beetle-killed trees.
“They deserve the credit themselves. We are just a facilitator,” Rudasics said. “This prize money is an incentive to do a little more work that they might have done on their own.”
Startup Colorado sponsors the competition, along with three workshops on May 30, June 20 and July 19 that introduce potential business competitors to topics that include identifying target markets, defining the product or service as a customer value, conducting financial forecasts and marketing and sales strategies.
Entrepreneurs and potential business competition participants can register for the workshops by calling Rudasics at 970-870-4491. He said the workshops generally draw 15 to 20 people and are designed to provide the skills needed to present a well-written plan that can be used as part of the competition.
Once plans are submitted, a panel of three judges selects the six finalists who advance to the final round of competition where they present their ideas to a panel of business mentors from Yampa Valley SCORE for a chance at winning $6,000. The runner-up pockets $4,000.
The $10,000 in prize money is provided by the city of Steamboat Springs, which contributes $6,000 to the competition, and Alpine and Mountain Valley banks, which each contribute $2,000.
Rudasics said the incentive to complete a plan by a set deadline has encouraged a number of entrepreneurs to submit plans and further their business goals regardless of whether they won the competition.
“Not everybody actually submits a plan, but I’m hoping to increase the business education for small business entrepreneurs,” Rudasics said.
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