Is your big idea worth $5k?

Is your big idea worth $5,000? Perhaps you’ve imagined the perfect app that doesn’t yet exist, or maybe your plan is for a business model with potential to boom, or an ingenuous product no one else has thought of...

Whether your idea is audacious, crazy, uniquely creative or brilliantly practical – Innovate Whanganui is the place to test it.

Economic development agency Whanganui & Partners is welcoming entries to this year’s Innovate competition until May 29, and has announced a prize of $5,000 in start-up capital for the event’s winner.

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Last year, this Dragons’ Den style competition saw local entrepreneur Vaughan Campbell take away the big prize for his “Good Bones” eco-friendly distillery business.

The Innovate competition is designed to support local entrepreneurs and start-up business initiatives. The $5k prize is a big drawcard but Tim Easton, the agency’s Strategic Lead – Business, says there’s much more value to be gained along the way for all the competitors.

“Every contestant learns something from the process, and we encourage people to enter and find out how viable their idea is,” he says. “This is an amazing opportunity to get involved in the entrepreneurial community and find help to get your great idea off the ground.”

Easton said he expected some contestants will be back from last year, there will be some who will enter more than one idea, there will be many who are right at the start of developing their idea, and others who are well along in their business plans.

The Innovate entries will be assessed by mentors, who will decide which applicants have an idea worth pitching. The top 20 entrants will then be invited to attend workshops where they’ll prepare for their in-person pitches.

These pitches will take place before a room of judges, across two pitch nights. Each contestant will have two minutes to get the judges − a diverse range of business people, community leaders, professionals and creatives, inspired by their innovative ideas.

The atmosphere is tense for competitors and exciting for the judging panel, Easton said. “There were a few false-starts last year and a few pitch lines forgotten, it was a real testament to the seriousness of the environment and the high stakes for these entrepreneurs.”

The judging panel will select the Top 5 entrants, each of whom will get access to a 10-week incubator programme. The programme will give them tailored support, access to mentors, and the opportunity to supercharge their business idea.

“The incubator programme really tests competitors’ adaptability and willingness to grow,” Easton said. “It can be confronting and enlightening working with experienced mentors, the process accelerates ideas.

“We find at this stage in the competition, our top contestants learn a lot about themselves and either completely reimagine how they will make it to market, or gain huge confidence and reassurance as they refine their route to success.”

After this period of preparation and refinement, the Top 5 will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas at the Innovate awards night, hosted by Whanganui & Partners in August.

“An Innovate Whanganui 2022 winner will be chosen and they’ll receive $5,000 in start-up cash to support their idea,” Easton says. “The cash prize will be hugely helpful and what they learn along the way is invaluable.”

Whanganui & Partners is delivering Innovate in partnership with The Factory, a Palmerston North collective made up of experts at getting ideas off the ground, launching start-ups, and helping businesses grow. The Factory has worked with and supported over 10,000 business founders.

To find out more and to enter your big idea, go to

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