The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Inc. (“The Community Foundation”), through the generosity of its Corporate Partners, is sponsoring a Downtown Startup Challenge (the “Challenge”). In an effort to advance the rebirth of our downtown districts and bring people to these areas, the Challenge seeks to spur downtown economic development in the major population centers in Oneida County. The Challenge is open to individuals and/or groups that have an innovative business concept with a retail storefront for downtown Utica or downtown Rome (as defined by the attached maps).
Start-ups (defined for purposes of the Challenge as any business that does not currently have a retail storefront operation in downtown Utica or downtown Rome) willing to locate in the designated downtown areas of Utica or Rome are eligible to submit an application to compete for a grand prize of up to $30,000.
- Competitive applications will demonstrate one or more of the following criteria:
- Commercial or retail activity resulting in a social return/impact as well as a financial return/impact
- Partnership(s) with individuals, organizations or businesses committed to revitalization of the downtown areas
- Innovative business concepts, practices and/or operations unlike those currently available in the downtown areas.
- Refugee-owned, minority-owned and/or woman-owned businesses are strongly encouraged to apply.
To help applicants throughout the Challenge, The Community Foundation has partnered with Mohawk Valley Community College’s “thINCubator” to coach and mentor applicants. thINCubator offers accelerated programming that gives aspiring entrepreneurs the resources needed to make their vision a reality – from ideation to development to deployment.
How It Works
- Applicants must submit an application by Friday, June 30, 2017. Applications will be reviewed by thINCubator representatives, and/or employees, trustees, committee members and corporate partners of The Community Foundation, as well as content experts, as needed, who will be selected at the sole discretion of The Community Foundation.
- Applicants selected to participate in the Challenge will be notified by Friday, July 7, 2017. This acceptance is contingent on at least one member of each team attending one of the mandatory introductory meetings (to be held between Saturday, July 8, 2017, and Sunday, July 16, 2017) where details of the Challenge will be discussed. Those who do not attend one of the mandatory meetings will not be allowed to participate in the cohort and will be disqualified from participating in the Challenge.
- At least one member of each team must participate in 6 out of 8 cohort meetings. Teams that do not meet this requirement will be disqualified from the Challenge and not eligible to submit a business plan for semi-final consideration.
- All teams must submit a business plan, in the designated format to be shared with participants, by Friday, September 1, 2017. Teams that do not meet this deadline will be disqualified from the Challenge and not eligible for semi-final consideration.
- Business plans will be reviewed by thINCubator representatives, and/or employees, trustees, committee members and corporate partners of The Community Foundation, as well as content experts, as needed, who will be selected at the sole discretion of The Community Foundation. Up to seven semi-finalists will be selected to pitch at the Challenge semi-finals to be held between Monday, September 11, 2017, and Friday, September 15, 2017, at thINCubator.
- The semi-finals will be judged by employees, trustees, committee members and/or corporate partners of The Community Foundation, as well as content experts, as needed, who will be selected at the sole discretion of The Community Foundation. The judges will deliberate and announce that evening up to three finalists who will pitch at the Challenge finals on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, at thINCubator.
- Finalists will have the opportunity to update their business plans based on feedback from the judges and thINCubator representatives. Finalists must submit updated business plans by Friday, September 22, 2017.
- At least one member of each finalist team must participate in The Community Foundation’s Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event on Wednesday, September 20, 2017, from 5pm to 7pm at The Community Foundation. Teams must also agree to participate in media events leading up to the finals.
- Finalists will give a five-minute pitch at the Challenge finals and will be judged by employees, trustees, committee members and/or corporate partners of The Community Foundation, as well as content experts, as needed, who will be selected at the sole discretion of The Community Foundation. The judges will deliberate and announce the Challenge winner that evening.
Eligibility and Expectations
Participation in the Challenge is subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. You are responsible for checking applicable laws and regulations in your jurisdiction before participating in the Challenge to make sure that your participation is legal. You are responsible for abiding by your employer’s policies regarding participation in the Challenge, if applicable. The Community Foundation disclaims any and all liability or responsibility for disputes arising between you and your employer related to this Challenge.
- Proposed business concepts must have a physical presence in downtown Utica or Rome (as defined by the attached maps).
- Applications must describe a start-up business that does not currently have a retail storefront operation in downtown Utica or downtown Rome.
- Applications may be submitted by individuals and/or groups. Individuals cannot be a member of more than one group. There is no limit to the number of individuals in a group.
- Applicants must participate in the 8-week thINCubator cohort.
- Each individual and/or group may enter only one application.
- Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and US citizens who reside in New York State.
- Entries must be the original work of applicants and not violate any contract or third party rights including any patent, copyright, trade secret, proprietary or confidential information, trademark, publicity or privacy right.
- Applicants must adhere to all of the Challenge’s deadlines and requirements as stated herein.
- Applicants must commit to opening the business on or before November 1, 2018.
- Applicants must commit to operate the business for a minimum of two calendar years from its open date.
- The Community Foundation’s trustees, employees, committee members and their immediate family (defined as spouses, children and parents) are not eligible to participate in the Challenge.
A prize of up to $30,000 will be awarded to the winner, as selected by the Challenge’s judging panel, based on the established criteria set forth herein (“Awards”). Awards will be distributed from a draw account according to a series of milestones as defined by The Community Foundation in consultation with each winning applicant and will be made payable to the business entity associated with each winning applicant. Failure by a winning applicant to satisfactorily meet set milestones as defined by The Community Foundation may result in a delay of payment of the Awards or could lead to the forfeiture of the Awards. Applicants must agree to the Terms of Acceptance for the Awards by signing a form to be provided by The Community Foundation, which will, among other things, set forth the requirements for using, accounting for, and reporting the Awards. The Awards may only be used to reimburse legitimate business expenses and purchases required to implement the proposal submitted by the winning applicants, and cannot be used as salary. The Awards must be used and accounted for in accordance with the deadlines set forth in the Terms of Acceptance. Applicants will have 18 months from the date on which the Terms of Acceptance are signed to request payment of the Awards, after which time the remaining Awards are forfeited.
Marketing and Public Relations
Applicants cannot use the name of “The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties,” or any variation, adaptation or abbreviation thereof, or of any of its trustees, employees, donors or corporate partners, or any trademark owned by The Community Foundation, in any advertising or publicity without the written permission of The Community Foundation’s Director of Marketing and Communications.
Applicants are required to participate in media and press opportunities related to the Challenge. The identities of applicants and the short description of the business disclosed in the application are considered to be part of the public domain and can be used by The Community Foundation for marketing and public relations purposes.
However, participating in media and press opportunities shall not require, or be construed as requiring, applicants to disclose any proprietary or otherwise confidential information related to their businesses.
The Challenge’s organizers and judging panels reserve the right to disqualify any entry that in their judgment violates the letter or the spirit of the guidelines, processes and rules of the Challenge. The decisions of the Challenge’s organizers and judging panel are final and binding.
The Challenge’s judging panels will consist of representatives of the thINCubator and employees, trustees, committee members and corporate partners of The Community Foundation, as well as content experts, as needed, and will be selected at the sole discretion of The Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, concerning the Challenge. In no event shall The Community Foundation, its trustees, employees, donors, corporate partners, Challenge partners, judges and mentors, be liable for (1) any advice, information or decisions made for or on behalf of the Challenge, (2) any damages, claims, costs, expenses, liabilities, damages, penalties or fees related to or arising out of the disclosure of proprietary or confidential information of an applicant, (3) any claims, liabilities, damages, royalties, costs and expenses related to any intellectual property rights, including, but not limited to, claims for infringement upon or other violation of any patent, copyright, trade secret or other proprietary right of any third party, or (4) for incidental or consequential damages of any kind, including economic damages or injury to property and lost profits, regardless of whether The Community Foundation shall be advised, shall have other reason to know or in fact shall know of the possibility of the foregoing.
The Community Foundation reserves the right to modify, suspend or end the Challenge at any time for any reason in The Community Foundation’s sole discretion.