Start Garden opens submissions for The 100

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Winners from Start Garden's 2019 Demo Day. Courtesy Start Garden

A startup business competition now is taking applications from West Michigan entrepreneurs.

Start Garden’s open contest for business startups, The 100, is back for a fourth season, and anyone with a business idea or businesses seeking to explore a new opportunity is invited to apply at 100.startgarden.com.

Start Garden will award $300,000 in funding to the 100 winners, which will be announced at Start Garden’s Demo Day event on Sept. 21.

Competition details:

  • Applicants can make a 100-second video explaining their idea.
  • They can submit the video to 100.startgarden.com.
  • Videos will be accepted from Tuesday, May 3, through Monday, July 11.
  • The minimum age to participate is 14.
  • Video submissions are not shared with the public.
  • Participants can upload as many ideas as they wish.
  • In July, 100 finalists will be chosen to receive $1,000 each, no strings attached.
  • Finalists have two months to refine their ideas with community support.
  • 100 finalists present at the 2022 Demo Day competition on Sept. 21.
  • At Demo Day, 10 winners will receive another $20,000 to help their business take off.
  • A $5,000 award will go to a high school student or team competing in the high school category.

While The 100 is open to aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the community, Start Garden promoted the first competition primarily in historically underrepresented minority neighborhoods. The efforts paid off with 650 submissions in 2021, with 53% of the finalists being women and 60% being from minority groups.

“When we designed the Start Garden 100, our goal was to make it a genuine opportunity for anyone from any neighborhood in Michigan,” said Paul Moore, co-director at Start Garden. “Not to mention, it’s literally the easiest $1,000 an entrepreneur can get to play with an idea.”

A 2019 study reported the 100 candidates who participated gained no advantage or disadvantage based on where they live, education level or household income.

“We are proud that the data shows The 100 is a level playing field in business competitions,” said Darel Ross, Start Garden co-director. “Access to resources is the No. 1 thing entrepreneurs need, and The 100 achieves that at scale.”

The 2021 Demo Day competition drew more than 670 visitors despite the pandemic. The winning ideas included a wide range of products and services: food and drink, online platforms and services, and manufacturers.

“We see it each year we do The 100. Relationships are formed, new ventures launched and new wealth created as a result of this experience,” said Jorge Gonzalez, Start Garden co-director.

The lead-up to the competition and Demo Day are designed to expand an aspiring entrepreneur’s network. Forty-four percent of competitors reported making more than eight new connections to help their startup, and more than 73% said they would “absolutely” encourage other would-be entrepreneurs to take a shot at The 100.

“We are excited for The 100 this year, as we know it will create opportunities not only for entrepreneurs but for all organizations that want to support entrepreneurship,” said Laurie Supinski, Start Garden co-director.

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