IDEA Center calling for entries in Big Idea Contest with $1,000 prize

Published 12:05 am Sunday, March 11, 2018

By Elizabeth Cook

SALISBURY — If you’ve watched “Shark Tank” on TV, perhaps you dreamed of pitching a new business idea.

Your chance to do that — and to win $1,000 — will be coming up May 5.

The Rowan IDEA Center is calling for submissions for its first Big Idea Contest. Though judges for the contest may not be investors, the panel will include business people and community leaders.

The event, planned in conjunction with South Rowan High School, aims to bring out the best local entrepreneurial ideas — and to get more people thinking that way.

“This is a way to get a conversation started about businesses and business ideas,” says Mikey Wetzel, head of the IDEA Center board and owner of Go Burrito.

Interested people can submit a brief summary of their idea online at Entries are due by the end of the day April 15.

Ten finalists will be chosen for the final phase — presenting their idea to the judges at the Big Idea Contest at West End Plaza. Presentations can include but are not limited to video, print media and internet.

Wetzel says a total of $3,500 in prizes will be given.

The South Rowan element of the event will be the school’s own “5 Minutes Tops” competition for South students, to be held before the Big Idea Contest at the same site.

Brad Holda, a career coach with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, has been working with South Rowan students to develop business ideas.

“The finalists for the high school event have put in a ton of work already,” Holda says, “by being selected through an interview process, working weekly with mentors – both internally and externally — creating a business plan, and working on their pitch.”

The students are eager to show off their products, he said, and maybe win money for their start-up.

Holda says South Rowan and the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education welcomed the focus on entrepreneurship with open arms.

“There is a lot of synergy happening between the local colleges, school system and Rowan County,” Holda said.

“It’s exciting what South Rowan High School, the entire school district, as well as local colleges are doing to promote innovation and creativity for the future generations, and this is just one of many exciting things that is happening around the educational systems in this county. I am encouraged that South Rowan and RSS welcomed this opportunity with open arms. It really reaffirms the progressiveness of the school system. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Rowan County.”

Holda is from Lansing, Michigan, where the “5 Minutes Tops” concept got its start. It’s countywide now in the Lansing area and “more than 20 successful student-led businesses have come out of this competition.”

Lucas Schrauben, the creator of 5 Minutes Tops, has worked with Holda from a distance to launch the South Rowan effort.

Wetzel is hoping “5 Minutes Tops” will eventually spread throughout Rowan schools, and that the IDEA Center’s Best Idea Contest will become an annual event.