The front conference room at Peoria Next Innovation Center buzzed with entrepreneurial energy Tuesday evening during the third week of the Brave Launch accelerator sessions.
The 2017 Brave Launch cohort of nine business teams from around the Greater Peoria region are well into a seven-week rigorous boot camp exploring, polishing (or possibly even abandoning) their burgeoning business ideas.
Critical Feedback from Mentors
At the Tuesday session, the teams took turns presenting drafts of their pitches while competitors watched and listened intently. A line of mentors at the back table interjected during pitches, grilling the teams and poking holes in their business models.
One of the mentors and organizers of the program is Ross Miller, Director of Technology Commercialization at the Illinois Small Business Development Center & Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University.
“Before we get to the solution, get to know the problem better,” said Miller at the close of one team’s pitch, bluntly encouraging the participant to do more research before cold-calling potential customers.
“The teams’ assumptions need to be challenged. Challenging them helps bring focus to the issues,” said Miller. “I would rather make this the tough part of their business development because running the business will be tougher.”
But the tough love is welcomed by Jacquie Taylor who is developing a curated grocery concept for busy families called Aunt Yogi’s Kitchen.
“I actually like it, I like hearing the truth,” said Taylor. “It’s far more uncomfortable if I believe something that is wrong.”
Developing Business Models
Although the teams have entered the nine-session accelerator with the hope to win the pitch competition and gain investor interest, organizers designed the program to benefit all participants regardless of winning at the final event.
Each week the teams further develop their business model canvases, gain crucial insight and how-to knowledge for launching a new company, learn directly from mentors, investors and peer entrepreneurs, and discover if a real opportunity exists for their ideas.
Mario West of Tech Vest gradually mulled his business idea over the last 10 years, first putting pen to paper around a year ago. He said he looks forward to gaining some valuable information needed to move his product concept forward.
“Tech Vest won’t die — win or lose,” said West. “I get better and better every Tuesday. Where I was at when I started and where I am now, it’s already helping. I feel it will be a lot stronger product [following Brave Launch].”
“I am hoping when I get done I’ll know more regarding the next steps,” said Taylor. “It has helped me get focused and keep moving forward.”
Entrepreneur Showcase at Pitch Day
The vast spectrum of products and services in development by this cohort demonstrates the diversity of startups in our region. From grocery franchises to digital farm equipment technology, Greater Peoria contains a wealth of new business potential.
Miller said the public can catch a glimpse of this business potential first-hand at the upcoming pitch event.
“Anyone that hopes to be an entrepreneur and anyone interested in the entrepreneurial culture of the Peoria area should attend Pitch Day,” he said. “This is a great chance to get together and see what new businesses are learning and how to develop ideas.”
Click here to register today for the 2017 Brave Launch Pitch Day on November 9 from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm at Bradley University’s Hayden-Clark Alumni Center.
Learn more about accelerator and mentor programs for Greater Peoria startups here.