Competition to help spur economic growth in Oswego

Oswego County is now in search of the next great idea. Fair warning though, they will only accept the greatest one.

The Next Great Idea competition created by Oswego County businesses and banks to support business development and economic growth in Oswego County, offers students exposure and a chance to win $25,000 to start a business based in the county.

Previous 2008 winner, Ocean Blue Technology, produces protective equipment for scuba divers to make them more visible to boats and other moving objects on the water. "Without the opportunity, Ocean Blue Technology may not have had the opportunity to become a reality," said Austin Wheelock, economic development specialist, of Operation Oswego County Inc.

The competition, created in 2008, is hosted by a number of judges, who vary from local bankers to statewide entrepreneurs. The competition is intended to promote and aid the development of businesses exclusively based in Oswego County. The involvement of entrepreneurs and businesses, also gives the county and students exposure, added Wheelock.

The competition is open to all those who have a business idea, regardless of major. Individuals or groups can enter as a team. A workshop is also provided to help those who are not really sure how to start a business.

The competition consists of three main stages. For round one, teams submit an executive summary of their ideas by May 3. Judges evaluate each summary, and 10-15 semi-finalists are chosen to participate in round two. For round two, semi-finalists must submit a full business plan by September 3 and all semi-finalists receive written feedback from the judges before narrowing the contestants down to five groups. Last, on November 9, finalists must give an in-person 20-minute presentation to the judges, and then the winner will be announced at a luncheon and awards ceremony.

"The competition gives students who enter a great opportunity," said Wheelock. "If you win, you can get $25,000 to start your own business, but even if you don’t win, the benefits from the experience are worth it. You’ll gain the confidence you need to pursue your own business venture, and if one of the businesses involved like your idea, you may get a chance try it out with their help."

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