The American Farm Bureau Federation will open online applications for its third Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge on May 1, to coincide with National Small Business Week (May 1-7). Entrepreneurs will compete for $145,000 in startup funds.
The competition provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations that benefit rural regions of the United States. It is the first national rural business competition focused exclusively on innovative entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses.
Competitors are invited to submit for-profit business ideas related to food and agriculture online starting May 1 at www.strongruralamerica.com/challenge.
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, farmers' markets, wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries. Businesses can also support food and agriculture such as crop scouting, agritourism, ag advertising agencies and ag technology companies.
"Owners of all types of businesses across the food and agriculture supply chain are encouraged to enter the competition," said Dr. Lisa Benson, AFBF's director of rural development. "Through the challenge, we'll provide 10 rural entrepreneurs with access to funding to take their businesses to the next level."
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.
The top 10 teams will be announced in October. This includes six teams who will each win $10,000 in startup funds.
The final four teams will compete in a live competition at AFBF's 98th Annual Convention in Phoenix on Jan. 8 to win:
- Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year award and $30,000 (chosen by judges)
- People's Choice award and $25,000 (chosen by public vote)
- First runner-up prize, $15,000 and
- Second runner-up prize, $15,000.
The Entrepreneur of the Year award and the People's Choice award will be awarded to two different teams. The team that wins the Entrepreneur of the Year award will not be eligible for the People's Choice Award. The competition timeline, detailed eligibility guidelines and profiles of the 2015 and 2016 finalist teams are available at www.strongruralamerica.com/challenge.