Startup challenge set for locals

If you’ve ever dreamed about starting your own business, now might be the perfect time to make it a reality.

Startup Challenge Monterey Bay, a business competition for entrepreneurs and startups, is now open and accepting applications. The event is managed by the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development, part of the College of Business at California State University Monterey Bay.

The challenge is open to entrepreneurs in Monterey County, Santa Cruz County and San Benito County. Entrepreneurs in the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill are also eligible for participation.

Farmhouse Communications, a local consulting firm, is hosting an orientation event at 6 p.m. today at Hollister City Hall, 375 Fifth St.

Farmhouse Communications President and San Benito County Business Council Consulting Executive Director Kristina Chavez-Wyatt has been a volunteer judge of the competition for two years.

“It’s really about inspiring the spirit of entrepreneurship in the central coast,” Wyatt said. “This startup challenge is kind of like a ‘Shark Tank’ for people who want to start a new business or take their products to market.”

There are three divisions from which to choose. The Venture division is for businesses designed to grow into larger businesses. The Main Street division is for small businesses, sole proprietorships and nonprofits. There’s also a Student division for student teams from high school through graduate school.

Prizes include $1,500 in cash for the Student division winner, $2,500 in professional services for the Main Street division winner and a $20,000 grand prize plus $10,000 in professional services for the Venture division winner.

“We are hosting this orientation in Hollister with the goal of helping to spread the word, but also working with local media outlets and communication avenues to spread word about this and other business support programs,” Wyatt said.

Applications are due March 13 and can be completed online at www.thestartupchallenge.org. Qualifying round pitches take place April 8 and the final round and venture showcase happen on May 12.

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