Community organizations and local business leaders are partnering with the four DeKalb County high schools to organize and operate Launch DeKalb County, a competition for young entrepreneurs. The contest will culminate with a Launch Tank event featuring student finalists’ business plan presentations. The event, which is open to the public, will take place on Tuesday, April 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the County Line Church of God in Auburn.
The Launch DeKalb County competition and its Launch Tank event are being sponsored and hosted by various community organizations and businesses, including Learning Link of DeKalb County, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership, DeKalb County Chamber Partnership, DeKalb County Community Foundation, County Line Church of God, and Team Quality Services.
Students from all four high schools in DeKalb County (DeKalb, Garrett, Eastside and Lakewood Park) are participating in the business plan competition. In December, students were asked to form teams and come up with a business idea they could pitch to a panel of judges. As a part of the pitch, the students also were required to write a business plan to demonstrate how the business will fit into the local market.
Each team will be judged on and must show evidence of four criteria for their proposed business:
- Product Market Fit—Has a specific customer been identified?
- Team—Does the team have what it takes to launch and operate the business?
- Money—Can the business be started for a reasonable amount of money and will it produce a profit?
- Story—Can the team articulate its vision?
Judging will be performed by local business leaders along with representatives of the participating colleges and universities that are providing scholarship awards. The DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors also will be represented.
“Launch DeKalb County prepares students to work through challenges associated with taking an idea and testing its feasibility, finding assistance, organizing resources and presenting a plan for success,” according to Chris Straw, president of Team Quality Services and coordinator of the Launch DeKalb program. “These are skills that will help them succeed in all aspects of life,” he believes.
At the Launch Tank event, young entrepreneurs will be competing for general education scholarships, startup grants, office space, and scholarship offers from area educational institutions such as Indiana Tech, the University of Saint Francis, Ivy Tech and Trine University, should the winners choose to enroll at one of those schools.
Since the introduction of the competition in December, student groups from the four DeKalb County high schools have been working with teachers and community business mentors while also conducting market research and developing their business ideas. In February, each school narrowed down their student groups to the top two teams. A total of eight finalist teams will present their plans at the final Launch Tank competition on April 18.