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Show of Hands Year 2 – A successful entrepreneurial pitch activity is back!

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | January 25, 2023
Three 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 activity 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. 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 2023 Competition.
What are the relevant dates for the competition?
Entries should be submitted no later than noon on Friday, February 24th. After submissions, Show of Hands local leadership will be available for those that would like to hone their pitch. The actual competition will take place on the evening of March 9th at the Emporia Granada Theatre. More information on tickets to the event will be published soon. Entries are required to provide visual to aids to Emporia Main Street no later than Tuesday, March 7th.
Is there funding beyond the ticket entry available for entrepreneurs?
Yes. ESB Financial and Network Kansas have already signed on as financial sponsors for cash grants. Emporia Main Street is currently reaching out for additional prospective funding.
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 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 the current iteration 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 the 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 creates 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. 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.
Click HERE to compete an application for the 2023 Competition.
Details for the Public Pitch Event
The Show of Hands pitches will take place on March 9th , starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Emporia Granada Theatre. 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, 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. 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 9th, and vote with your dollars for the types of businesses you want to see in Lyon County!
ONLINE TICKET SALES will be available soon.
How can I get involved as a donor or supporter?
Businesses or individuals that want to support participating entrepreneurs in the Show of Hands event can do so in one of three ways:
-First, there are cash donation options. Cash donations go into a pool for cash grants towards the startups or expansions of participating pitches. Grant amounts from the pool are determined by a judging panel, and no grants are awarded until the entrepreneur demonstrates actual expenses related to startup or expansion.
-Second, there are “in-kind” service or product donations. Coffelt sign company donated vinyl messaging for doors/windows and KVOE donated advertising packages last year. Accountants and attorneys could donate set services. Other businesses that deal with businesses (office supplies, contractors, etc.) can offer gift certificates for set spending amounts. When starting or expanding new businesses, we want to make sure they are spending local.
-Third, you can purchase blocks of tickets for vote distribution. Each ticket has a cash equivalent grant, so when a concept is voted for, they are provided a real dollar opportunity. We have some student groups and other volunteers that can used donated blocks of tickets to vote for their favorite concepts.
Contact Emporia Main Street to donate
Seven of the eight participating pitches met startup or expansion qualifications last year. What do last year’s participants say about the Show of Hands concept?
Imaginarium STEM education and Toy Store: “Honestly, Show of Hands was our starting point because it provided a reason for us to complete the business plan, financial projections, and presentation. After Show of Hands, things really took off for us. We applied to start our business in the Main Street incubator space and moved in last summer. Since opening, our business plan has somewhat changed to meet the needs of Imaginarium and running a non-profit organization.  Main Street is already helping us in so many ways. We wouldn’t be here today without them, their mentorship, and creative thinking. The incubator space is awonderful asset to our community. We can’t wait to see what the nextbusiness will bring. To the people entering Show of Hands – Go for it! There is nothing more rewarding and fun than being an entrepreneur. You will be in a room full of people who only want the best for you and want to help you succeed.”
Sunflower Aquaponics Local Food Production: “Thinking about signing up for Show of Hands? DO IT NOW! Whether the business is just an idea or a full blown functioning entity, the Show of Hands event is a no brainer. Your business will gain great insight and exposure. Plus the contacts you will make are invaluable.   Currently I’m constructing four beds that are 8’x4’. They will be ready for crops by late March or early April. Naturally the seeds will be planted in Februaryto March so the plants will be at the stage for transplanting into theaquaponics system upon completion of the beds. I will grow high nutrientcrops (i.e. tomatoes and cucumbers) in two of the beds. One bed will begreens (i.e. lettuce and herbs). The final bed is for root crops (i.e.onions or carrots).  This is a very minimal system that will not produce much volume at all, but it will show proof of concept. With the interest and funds of local vendors I willbe gradually increasing the amount of systems and thus crops based on theneeds of local vendors.  Of course if there are enough vendors in the local area in need of large amounts of produce as soon as possible a greenhouse and commercially pre fabricated system will be assembled. That system will still take around six months to assemble, but that will speed up the process to large quantities in a year versus the more gradual approach that will take at least six years or moredepending on demand and funding.  With the prefabricated option I will be working with the fabricator directly toensure all requirements are met before beginning construction. With themore gradual approach I will have much more limited access to expert planning professionals.” CLICKHERE for more Sunflower Aquaponics news. 
Radius Production Brewery Expansion Distribution level beer production with a tap room and entertainment areas: “Do it! Keep your presentation short, sweet, and to the point. At this point, construction is moving slowly but surely. Supply chain issues and construction material scarcity have definitely caused some delays. We are hoping for a completion date of late summer 2023.” CLICK HERE for more Radius updates.
Mark DeJesus, Emporia Myofascial Care: “I’ve joined Strive Wellness Group as an individual company. Strive is owned by Dr. Amanda Ruxton and Katie Crook. I am renting a room in there. It’s a wonderful atmosphere and collaborative effort that has allowed me to be free to offer different therapeutic approaches and classes that are new to Emporia. My full opening will be February 10th and am excited to make the jump to private practice.” For more information, CLICK HERE.
Chef Mikey healthy food educational publications: “Main Street continues to add programs to help entrepreneurs be successful, Opt-In! Since the 2022 Show of Hands, we published our first edition of Chef Mikey’s Funny With Food (r) Create Your Own Comics. (CLICK HERE) We are now working weekly with Studio-E at Emporia State in developing self-published booklets on Healthier Choice Foods for not only people but our pets. The Booklets will help us establish our Chef Mikey & Bev Mascots as Intellectual Property that can help increase the consumption of healthier choice foods. Our website is the easiest place to see photos of what we do: http://www.chefmikey.org “
Main Street Axe Company, Calebh Shedd Axe throwing and other gaming services: “I would tell everyone to sign up for the Show of Hands. It is a great experience. Also the Start Your Own Business Class class helps you take those steps to get started.” CLICK HERE for more information on Main Street Axe Company.
Chad the Bread Man Bakery located inside Vault Meats and Cheeses: Chad used funds acquired through the Show of Hands event for a delivery vehicle. The vehicle allowed for additional deliveries and event participation, which enhanced sales. He operates in Vault Meats and Cheeses located in the 500 Block of Commercial Street. CLICK HERE for more information.
Encourage the entrepreneurs in your life to get involved!
Quality business startups and expansions keep dollars local while also creating jobs and providing consumers with better choices. But, new businesses and business expansions don’t happen by accident. Education, support, and dollars drive successful entrepreneurship. Show of Hands is just one of many ways Emporia Main Street is actively working to build a better Lyon County. We hope you will partner with us to help these entrepreneurs GROW!

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.