Elevate Rapid City, in partnership with Heartland Forward and Builders and Backers, released applications Monday for Black Hills residents to dare themselves to pursue their ideas.
Black Hills area residents will be able to submit four-question applications to solve problems they see with creative solutions. Ten will be selected to have access to up to $5,000 to help turn their ideas into potential businesses or ventures.
“We recognize the need to foster entrepreneurship and to give our startups every opportunity they can,” said Mitch Nachtigall, innovation and entrepreneurship director at Elevate Rapid City.
Nachtigall said James Atkin, head of public engagement communities for Builders and Backers, emailed him a few months ago proposing the partnership.
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The program is brought forward by Heartland Forward’s Community Growth Program and Toolkit and Builders and Backer’s Idea Accelerator program. No business plan or pitch deck is required for the idea. The 10-member cohort selected would be part of Heartland Forward’s commitment to funding and supporting 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023.
Applications are due by Aug. 15. The residents with the most promising and innovative ideas will be selected to participate in a two-month long virtual program starting Sept. 22.
“The issue we’re trying to get at is there are millions of ideas out there, they exist in people’s minds,” Atkin said. “They happen on the way to the gym in the morning, they happen taking your kids to school, they happen when you’re at the emergency room at three in the morning because your kid has a fever. People see problems that should be solved and they say, ‘Why does this exist?'”
Atkin said for 95% of people, that’s where it stops.
“I think that, at its key, is one of the big issues holding communities back, holding the country back when you think about the need to innovate, the need to create more jobs, the need to create the next industries of the 21st century ,” he said.
Atkin said the goal is to get people who typically would not consider themselves as entrepreneurs to say, “Why don’t I build that? Why don’t I try that?”
He said the program will help people delve into the problem at hand, solve it and surround them with people who can help them run experiments to test their idea.
Atkin said sometimes ideas don’t work out but people can now have confidence to know how to run experiments and move forward with a different idea.
The program was first piloted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Oxford, Mississippi, in the summer of 2021. Since then, there have been around 150 participating builders across 11 cities.
Atkin said the idea or solution does not have to be tech or industry specific.
Nachtigall said during the program, Elevate Rapid City hopes to have watch parties for the cohort and build a community for the builders, although it is not required.
He said for those who are not selected, Elevate Rapid City wants them to come back and apply for the next round, if Builders and Backers invites them back. Nachtigall said they’re also using this to find out who is out there, who has an idea, and if they can help them move forward with an idea or business.
Nachtigall said if people have startup ideas, they should email him and he can connect them with the appropriate resources. Nachtigall’s email is [email protected]
He also said those who submit ideas to the program will hear back from Elevate Rapid City either way and can expect to hear from him. Ideas can also be submitted to Elevate Rapid City’s website.
— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at [email protected] —