WISE — The My Southwest Virginia Opportunity Steering committee will announce the winners of its inaugural Entrepreneur Challenge during an award ceremony next week at the Hotel Norton in Wise County.
The ceremony is scheduled to take place from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
Organizers said the Challenge and associated awards were established to create a pipeline of entrepreneurs for Southwest Virginia as well as support regional efforts such as the Crooked Road, Round the Mountain, the Clinch River Valley Initiative, Appalachian Springs and Spearhead Trails Initiative.
The Challenge, which is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, will award more than $30,000 in business investment grants for new ventures and existing businesses during Tuesday’s ceremony.
The first-place award winner will receive a $10,000 grant from the challenge, while two second-place awardees will be given grants totaling $5,000 each. Three third-place finishers will each be given a $1,500 grant award.
The prize money is managed by Virginia Community Capital and may only be used for business expenses.
The Entrepreneur Challenge was coordinated by the My Southwest Virginia Committee, which consisted of members from regional planning districts, community action agencies, state tourism and economic development departments and colleges.
The Challenge began in July 2013 with a total of 21 small business owners and entrepreneurs taking part.
Participants took part in a seven months of business training, networking and mentorship that concluded with “pitch nights” and business plan submissions.
In order to be eligible, participants had to agree to open, or expand, their business within the seven-county, one-city area the Challenge covered.
Classes for the challenge were held at the Southwest Virginia Technology Development Center in Lebanon, which is managed by the University of Virginia-Wise.
Challenge winners were judged on five categories, including attendance, community match, regional strategy alignment, business pitch and business plan.
In addition to the various opportunities offered by the Challenge, members of both the Steering Committee and DHCD worked with the towns of Big Stone Gap, St. Paul and Haysi to develop incentives designed to attract businesses to their downtown areas.