The American Farm Bureau Federation is now accepting applications for the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. Entrepreneurs will compete for $145,000 in startup funds. Applications must be submitted by June 30.
The competition provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations being cultivated in rural regions of the United States. It is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses.
Competitors must have an idea for a business that is related to food and agriculture. Businesses related to food and agriculture include farms or ranches, value-added food processing, food hubs, community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs), farm-to-table restaurants and farmers’ markets. Businesses indirectly related to food and agriculture include support services such as crop scouting, agritourism, ag advertising agencies and ag technology companies.
“Great business ideas can germinate anywhere,” said Dr. Lisa Benson, AFBF’s director of rural development. “Access to capital is often the key to taking a startup company from innovative concept, to strategy, to reality. Through the challenge, we’ll provide 10 rural entrepreneurs with access to funding to take their businesses to the next level.”
Competitors must be based in a rural community as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Competitors’ primary residences or businesses must be located in a county with less than 50,000 residents or a town with less than 2,500 residents.
All applications, which include a business plan, video pitch and photo, must be submitted online by June 30. Judges will review the applications and provide feedback to the participants. Participants have the option of resubmitting portions of their applications; resubmission is optional and participants are not penalized for not resubmitting their applications.
The top 10 teams will be announced on Oct. 15. This includes six teams who will win $10,000 in startup funds and four finalist teams who will win $15,000 in startup funds and compete in a live “Shark Tank”-style competition at AFBF’s 97th Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, in January.
Finalists will compete for the grand prize title Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneur of the Year and $15,000 in additional startup funds to implement their ideas. One finalist will also be honored with the People’s Choice Award and $10,000 in additional startup funding.
The competition timeline, detailed eligibility guidelines and profiles of the 2015 finalist teams are available at http://www.strongruralamerica.com/challenge.