Action Brown County launches business start-up competition; aspiring small business owners to compete for up to $20,000 in prizes


MOUNT STERLING, Ill. — Action Brown County has spearheaded many efforts in previous years to support existing Brown County businesses, including its BC Bucks Program, business marketing support and uptown Mount Sterling events that highlight local businesses. ABC now is using a grant from the Tracy Family Foundation to launch Brown County’s first business start-up competition.

“The business start-up competition will help aspiring Brown County business owners make the leap from idea to business success,” Action Brown County executive director Alex Geisler said. “We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in supporting existing businesses and now want to catalyze new retail business in Brown County.”

The Brown County business start-up competition hopes to attract aspiring business owners who have explored various ideas but never sought to develop their concept into a viable Brown County business. 

“Applicants don’t have to have all of the details figured out,” Brown County start-up competition planning team member Rob Akright said. “Through the process, competitors will participate in several workshops led by experts to help them develop their idea into a viable business plan with the highest likelihood of success.”

Participants can attend a series of business-centered workshops led by regional experts to learn how to begin a new business. Participants will then write their own business plans and pitch their prospective business idea to a panel of judges. The winner of the competition will receive up to $20,000 in cash prizes and ongoing accounting, marketing, retail best practices and customer service support to get their business up and running.

“We’re hoping we get a lot of applicants who have a broad range of exciting business ideas,” said Mount Sterling City Manager Vada Yingling, a member of the Brown County business start-up competition planning team. “We want to encourage anyone that has dreamed of opening a Brown County business to step forward and share their idea.”

Applications are due April 1. A minimum number of applications must be received to have the competition. Applicants are not required to be a resident of Brown County but must propose and establish a physical business in Brown County if selected as a winner. Judging criteria has not been finalized. A successful candidate is expected to propose, among other things, a sustainable business that generates employment, foot traffic and/or retail sales in Brown County. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.

“ABC’s mission is to inspire community, celebrate Hornet spirit and promote economic growth,” Geisler said. “We believe the Business Start-up Competition fits perfectly with each element of our mission. The competition will bring the community together, celebrate our Hornet ingenuity and ultimately help a new business drive further economic growth in Brown County.”

Action Brown County is a nonprofit organization that enhances Brown County by inspiring community, celebrating Hornet spirit and promoting economic growth. ABC maintains a Brown County community calendar, runs the BC Bucks program, hosts Shop Local business support efforts and leads community events such as the Winterfest and the February Fling teacher appreciation banquet. 

The Tracy Family Foundation was established in 1997 by the Robert and Dorothy Tracy family to advance innovative, collaborative, and sustainable change in Brown County, Illinois, and the surrounding region through organizations that share the values of family, faith, education, leadership, and community. TFF seeks to cultivate a philanthropic spirit in all generations of the Robert and Dorothy Tracy family by providing opportunities for the family to give and serve together. TFF has awarded nearly 6,000 grants for more than $50 million.

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