(UPDATED) Contest to reward Midlands entrepreneurs for the next great idea

UPDATED — October 25: The deadline for the Ignite! Ideas Contest for Midlands entrepreneurs has been extended until November 4.

Entrepreneurs with great ideas and business-startup concepts are encouraged to enter them over the next two weeks – and possibly could win $5,000 to jump start their business.

It’s all part of the Ignite! Ideas Contest sponsored by EngenuitySC and Lexington County-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals for the annual Ignite! economic competitiveness celebration on November 16.

Entrepreneurs can read contest full details and enter online through Oct. 24.

Midlands restaurant and food truck entrepreneurs Corey Simmons and Ramone Dickerson of 2 Fat 2 Fly bring the heat at last year’s Engenuity Ignite event. (Photo by Sean Rayford/provided)

Any and all startups, small business owners, social entrepreneurs, savvy students, big thinkers and go-getters are encouraged to pitch forward-thinking, grassroots ideas that will contribute to the landscape of the Midlands region.

EngenuitySC – a nonprofit economic development organization chaired by Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and University of South Carolina President Dr. Harris Pastides – hosts Ignite! annually to celebrate innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic competitiveness in the Midlands.

Working with these entrepreneurs each year is such a dose of positive energy – truly one of the highlights of the work we do,” said Meghan Hickman, executive director of EngenuitySC. “There are so many wildly talented minds here in the Midlands, and we love helping them jump to the next level with their ideas. We hope that even more applicants take a chance, shoot their video, and make that first leap to enter the contest.”

The Ignite! 2015 Ideas Contest winner, Vincent Felix, used the $5,000 prize money to grow his startup, Mr. Penguin Designs, a company that sells one-of-a-kind, protective cell phone cases designed by local, student artists who receive commissions for their artwork.

A University of South Carolina alum, Felix founded Mr. Penguin Designs to be a platform where students can gain exposure for their work while collecting residual income throughout college. Mr. Penguin Designs collaborates with University of South Carolina student-media organizations to create fully integrated campaigns to reach audiences both on campus and in the Midlands community.

How does the contest work?

Contestants must submit a two-minute video thoroughly describing their idea or concept to positively impact the Midlands, outlining the intended use of the $5,000 prize money. Contestants upload the video to a service such as YouTube or Vimeo, then submit the video link and short entry form. While the ideas are what really matter, the videos will be shared online with potential voters, so quality is important, Hickman said.

The contestants with the top five vetted submissions will present their ideas in person to judges at EngenuitySC, who will vote on the top three finalists. From there, the three finalists’ videos will be shared online and at Ignite! on November 16, where event attendees will vote in a live-voting session, selecting the winning idea. After votes are tallied – mere minutes later – the winner will be announced live on stage in front of hundreds of local business and community leaders and will receive the $5,000 Ignite! Ideas Contest check from Nephron Pharmaceuticals.

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