Whanganui’s next great entrepreneur will win $10K

It’s an event with a reputation for testing outstanding ideas with tough criteria and trying obstacles and Whanganui’s entrepreneurs are ready to prove they have the innovative nous to succeed.

Entries have opened for Innovate Whanganui, the Dragons’ Den style competition that pits entrepreneurial mindsets against real-life challenges in the hopes of developing the next must-have product or service.

Whanganui & Partners is facilitating the competition in partnership with The Factory, the business development and innovation hub responsible for delivering Innovate in Palmerston North.

There’s a lot to be gained by participating in the event, which will culminate in an awards night when the Top 5 finalists pitch their ideas and try to secure the $10,000 prize.

Dave Craig, Chief Executive at The Factory, says Innovate’s structure will benefit participating entrepreneurs regardless of the result. “The Factory has world class processes, years of experience and a playbook that will translate theory into positive action to benefit the entrepreneurs in local communities.”

Up to thirty local entrepreneurs have attended Innovate workshops to learn more about the competition and Tim Easton, Whanganui & Partners’ Strategic Lead – Business, is encouraging anyone with a big idea to put an entry in and find out if their concept might take off.

“There are plenty of people nurturing great ideas but lacking the platform they need to test and refine them,” Easton says.
“One of the most important things Dave talked about in the workshops was the value of sharing your idea; talking about it and being passionate about it. The nucleus is yours and there is very little likelihood anyone would develop that brainchild but you.”

Easton says the workshops illustrated how diverse and driven Whanganui’s entrepreneurs were.

“There were people who had years of thought and consideration backing their plans and others who had been struck by inspiration but had yet to act on it, none of the entrepreneurs we heard from had invalid ideas and they really inspired us to think in new ways about what is possible here.”

Barbara Kelly was the winner of Palmerston North’s Innovate 2020 with Event Ready Bodies, a programme to guide people to sports event readiness. Kelly created the programme with a dedicated team of qualified sports scientists, and backed by her own 20 years’ clinical experience, to bridge the gap between event training and successful long-term body maintenance.

Kelly demonstrated her programme was easily scalable with a clear customer base and global market potential. At the time of the event final, she already had subscriptions sold across the country with some starting to renew. The judges said she had a proven model for success with huge potential nationally and internationally.

Drawing on 30 years’ experience in the Army, medic Mark Anderson won Palmerston North’s Innovate 2019 with UrsaMed, a simulated bleeding device capable of creating life-like trauma in a real-life training environment.

It was Anderson’s second time entering Innovate. In 2013, he presented his first prototype to the programme. Judges were impressed but asked him to miniaturise the device and identify a clear intellectual property path.

The Factory’s Craig says it’s the person behind the great idea that matters, “Tenacity, endurance and self-belief are at the heart of every entrepreneur.”

Easton says from the list of Whanganui entries, a team of mentors will select the Top 20 candidates who will be invited to attend a workshop to learn about how to effectively pitch an idea and what to expect when the judges start grilling.

Mentors will provide guidance and feedback and help the competitors recognise the flaws and strengths in their plans.

In-person pitches will happen next, with groups of four to five candidates pitching to groups of mentors. This is when the pressure and excitement starts to gain real momentum.

The mentors will name their Top 5 who get access to a 10-week incubator programme including tailored support and guidance from mentors, $3000 in seed funding, and the provision of three months’ co-working space.

Entrants have until early September to refine their plans before pitching to a panel of judges, and hundreds of guests, at Innovate Whanganui’s awards night.
Craig says Innovate Whanganui will have The Factory’s experience to lean on but he’s looking forward to seeing a unique approach.

“We are pleased to share our knowledge to enable local eco-systems to execute Innovate in a way that makes sense to them. We provide the tools, then Whanganui & Partners will deliver Innovate in their own way.”

Entries are open now at innovatewhanganui.kiwi and close on June 4.

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