Tiger Cage business competition kicks off in Albert Lea

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Have an idea for a new or expanded business but need a little help getting the idea off the ground?

The Albert Lea Entrepreneur Advancement Program, sponsored by the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency, is hosting a business plan and pitch contest called Tiger Cage for entrepreneurs.

A start-up competition designed to spur entrepreneurial activity in Albert Lea and Freeborn County, Tiger Cage is organized by ALEDA with assistance from other businesses, organizations and members of the community.

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Business concepts eligible for the competition can be new businesses, significant expansions of an existing business, or a second or third retail or restaurant business satellite location from an existing business in another town, according to a press release.

Noelle Hagen, small business and marketing manager for ALEDA, said plans for the contest began in January or February.

“It encourages people to see that Albert Lea is a great place to start a business, to get assistance, to have that community around to assist you,” Hagen said.

Interested entrepreneurs must first submit their ideas via a six-question application due by July 27. The applications will be evaluated by a team of judges, and the best ideas will be chosen to move on to a second phase.

In phase two, participants will receive assistance from ALEDA, SCORE and other mentors as they complete business plans. The business plans will be due Oct. 5.

The judging committee will then review the business plans and choose three new businesses and three existing businesses to advance to a third phase.

During that phase, slated for  Nov. 15, participants will prepare and give a pitch to the judging panel. Business professionals who have donated to the effort will be invited to attend.

After each presentation, there will be 10 minutes for each participant to answer questions from the judges.

Winners will be announced Nov. 21. Prizes will be awarded to one winner of each category: a new business and an existing business. Prize packages will consist of a cash grant and in-kind donations of professional services.

The press release states it’s up to the community to decide how much is awarded.

The Tiger Cage committee is soliciting local businesses to match a $10,000 grant from the Albert Lea Business Development Center and a $5,000 grant from Farmers State Bank. If the two grants can be matched, then there will be $30,000 to split between the two winning businesses.

Hagen said she hopes people who have been thinking of ideas for a new business will take advantage of the opportunity.

“It’s an opportunity for someone to say, ‘This is my chance,’” she said. “‘Maybe I can finally start that business I want to start.’”

Though there will ultimately only be two winners, she hopes other business hopefuls will see the support out there and also move forward with their plans.

She emphasized that the applicants do not have to be from Freeborn County, but the business would need to be opened in Albert Lea or the county.

Entrepreneurs interested in applying and businesses interested in donating funds or in-kind services should contact Hagen at 373-3930 at the ALEDA office.

An application must be filled out and submitted no later than 5 p.m. July 27. The form can be found online at www.growalbertlea.com/aleap.

“We hope to have a lot of great ideas submitted — hope to have a lot of great ideas move forward to the business phase,” Hagen said.

Submissions will be received at the ALEDA offices or submitted by mail or email to Albert Lea Economic Development Agency, PO Box 370, 2610 YH Hanson Ave., Albert Lea, MN 56007 or aleap@growalbertlea.com.