Four years ago, Emporia Main Street had an opportunity to participate in a study by the Brookings Institute. The study focused on the practices of three Main Street programs in the rural communities of Laramie, Wyoming; Wheeling, West Virginia; and Emporia, Kansas. While researchers were busy studying us, each community got the chance to study each other. We learned a lot by looking at Laramie and Wheeling, and one of the Wheeling internal programs seemed to fit a need in our region. "Show of Hands" is an entrepreneurial pitch concept that ties community members to real startups/expansions of locally owned businesses to foster growth.

Show of Hands resembles many pitch competitions with a few key differences. First, the Show of Hands concept is open to anyone starting or significantly expanding a business in Lyon County. The competition doesn't limit itself to certain age ranges or organizational/institutional affiliations. Second, the community can get involved by voting for their favorite concepts with their dollars. The Show of Hands concept invites the public to the pitches with a cover charge, and that charge is converted to a grant to the entrepreneurial concept of their choice. Third, actual potential additional investors will be part of the competition, and can provide additional investment dollars for businesses that meet qualifications. Finally, and this is a REALLY important distinction: the dollars raised for individual entrepreneurs are distributed as a grant to offset actual business startup or expansion expenses for businesses starting up or expanding in Lyon County. This is not a public speaking contest or a theoretical pitch; Show of Hands is real dollars for real businesses.

How do you apply to enter the competition?

Click HERE to compete an application for the 2024 Competition.

What are the relevant dates for the competition?

Entries should be submitted no later than noon on Friday, March 15th. After submissions, individual participants must meet with Emporia Main Street staff a minimum of twice to help hone their pitch and create a digital presentation (PowerPoint or equivalent). The actual competition will take place on the evening of March 28th at the new Radius Brewing Company production facility. More information on tickets to the event will be published soon.  Entries are required to provide visual aids to Emporia Main Street no later than Tuesday, March 26th.

Is there funding beyond the ticket entry available for entrepreneurs?

Yes. Multiple local sponsors have signed on to help support additional cash grants to worthy participants.

Are there non-financial incentives available?

Local businesses have expressed interest in supporting businesses with rent assistance, legal help, accounting support, and other types of assistance. If your business would like to support entrepreneurs through the Show of Hands project by donating products or services, please contact either Casey Woods at Emporia Main Street  ([email protected]).

What if we don't end up starting or expanding a business?

If a business doesn't start up or expand after being selected for funding, that funding will be made available for other entrepreneurs in future Show of Hands pitches.

Are there restrictions for business types?

The for-profit business needs to be a legal entity functioning in Lyon County, but beyond that there aren't a lot of restrictions. This is a perfect chance for a tech business, a "maker" style business, services, retailers, restaurants or just about any other business type to build up cash to start up! Eventually we may specialize the pitches in future competitions, but our first competition will allow for various business types.

How long are the pitches?

We will allow for 7 minute pitches with 3 minutes of question/answer period. A panel will be available to facilitate questions and may extend the pitch time period if necessary.

Can entrepreneurs invite people to view the pitches (and donate)?

Absolutely. One of the most critical elements of entrepreneurship is the ability to motivate their target market. The Show of Hands pitch gives entrepreneurs an added incentive to get people involved in their business support at the ground level. From the community perspective, these types of pitches create an ecosystem of "shared ownership" that enhances community support for new startups and expansions.

Am I required to use visual aids during my presentation?

Yes, digital visual aids (PowerPoint or equivalent) are required.  Concepts should be well thought out, and Emporia Main Street can aid in contact formation.

What if I have other questions?

Contact Emporia Main Street (620-340-6430), and we will do our best to help.

Entrepreneurship is the foundation of our region. Our locally owned businesses give us our best opportunity to create and retain wealth, develop new types of jobs, diversify our economy, and establish destination businesses. We need new tools to help us establish the next generation of businesses of all types, and ALL of us have a role to play in the support of existing entrepreneurs, expansion of current businesses, and the development of new entrepreneurs. Whether you are interested in attending the event, participating as an entrepreneur, donating cash for grants, or offering business services as part of a prize package, the Show of Hands concept is our way of pushing forward to provide more business tools to local entrepreneurs.

Details for the Public Pitch Event

The Show of Hands pitches will take place on March 28th , starting at 5:30 p.m. at the new Radius Brewing Company Production Facility located at 4th Avenue and Merchant Street.  Tickets to enter are $10, and 100% of the ticket price is converted into grant support for the participating entrepreneur of your choice.  Here’s how the process works:

After a brief introduction, participating entrepreneurs will make a five-to-seven-minute concept pitch to the audience.  The pitch may be followed by a brief question and answer period conducted by three panelists.  After all the presentations are completed, audience members will be allowed to ask presenters additional questions at their business table. Each audience member will be allowed to “vote” for their favorite concept(s) with special voting tickets (one ticket equals $10).  You can buy as many tickets as you would like.  For example, if you want to support entrepreneurs with $100, you can purchase ten tickets, and distribute those ten tickets among different participants or simply “vote” for one concept.  You must buy at least one ticket per person to enter the Show of Hands pitch event. Tickets are purchased electronically via the form below. Physical ticket(s) will be distributed at the door the night of the competition. Additional tickets can be purchased at the event.

In addition to the ticket income, local businesses, statewide economic development initiatives, and area citizens have donated dollars and/or services for distribution at the discretion of panelists.  All the dollars and services awarded at the event will be held in reserve until the business incurs actual business expenses commensurate with the process of opening their concept.  Entrepreneurs have one year to open their concept, with an additional “grace year” awarded for extenuating circumstances.  If an entrepreneur does not open their business concept, dollars and/or services will be banked for future Show of Hands participants.

The Show of Hands pitch event gives you the power to help entrepreneurs starting up or expanding.  Buy tickets, show up to the event on March 28th, and vote with your dollars for the types of businesses you want to see in Lyon County!

Click HERE for Online Ticket Sales!

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