A new entrepreneur’s competition has launched in Oxford that offers something a little different from similar programs. Winning competitors, in addition to the usual coach/mentoring services and other perks, will vie for attractive cash prizes.
However, the AdvoCare Entrepreneur Challenge — representing a partnership between the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and Plano, Texas-based AdvoCare International, L.P. — was also started with a larger goal in mind. It is seen as a tool for the Oxford area to gauge the resources available to prospective small business owners and the ability to match those resources with entrepreneurs while also maintaining the assets that make Oxford attractive to business and commerce as well as retirees and others.
“What we are wanting to do is create an ecosystem for entrepreneurs,” said Jon Maynard, president and CEO of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation. “We want to grow our businesses from within, to grow Oxford without changing it. People come here because they buy into our culture, our atmosphere. We want to maintain that as well as diversify our businesses while keeping some of our talent in here in Oxford.”
The idea for the AdvoCare Entrepreneur Challenge was born during a conversation between Maynard and AdvoCare president and CEO Richard Wright at a mid-March event in Texas. The two men are old friends — they met in Louisiana when working in politics, and Maynard credits Wright with helping launch his economic development career.
While talking at the event, Wright asked Maynard if Oxford offered any kind of entrepreneur-recognition program. When Maynard said no, Wright expressed interest in offering financial support for a program aimed at boosting entrepreneurship.
AdvoCare is a multilevel marketing company, which sells nutrition, weight-loss, energy and sports performance products
“AdvoCare is the purest form of the free enterprise system, and America is the greatest place on earth to pursue your dreams. Entrepreneurs create jobs, create freedom for themselves and others. We are excited to have this opportunity to share our success by encouraging and supporting…entrepreneurial dreams and pursuits,” Wright said in a statement.
Maynard went back to Oxford and started drawing up the program. By mid-May, the blueprint for the AdvoCare Entrepreneur Challenge was complete, and Maynard and others were thrilled when Wright and AdvoCare offered $17,500 in prize money to the winners.
“The folks at AdvoCare ended up offering three times what we were hoping to get,” Maynard said.
Those who choose to enter the AdvoCare Entrepreneur Challenge, which will be limited to roughly 15 entrants, face a nine-month process. Beginning in September, the competitors will make their first pitch. From this pitch they will be instructed to tap into local resources and report back the following month. This will continue through December when the Entrepreneurial Alliance will begin to prep the entrepreneurs for the first “Pitch Night.” In January, the first “Pitch Night” event will be held. This event will determine which businesses will move on in the competition and which businesses will require more work. There will be another “Pitch Night” in March and the final Pitch Night event in May that will determine the ultimate winners of the AdvoCare Prize. The intervening months of February and April will be spent reviewing the results of the previous month’s Pitch night and offering advice for each of the progressing businesses.
The winners will be announced at the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber and EDF Annual Meeting in June 2015.
The AdvoCare Entrepreneur Challenge Trophy and cash prizes are $10,000 (first place), $5,000 (second place) and $2,500 (third place).
In addition, winning business plans will receive benefits including, but not limited to, incubator space, professional assistance (legal/accounting), access to local and regional Angel networks and other sources of funding and exposure/publicity.
Applicants may apply online at www.oxfordms.com/advocare-challenge. All applications must be submitted to later than Sept. 15, 2014.
Maynard said he hopes that the AdvoCare Entrepreneur Challenge becomes an annual event. He said they would assess the program upon its conclusion and make a decision about whether there will be a competition in 2015.