The Metropolitan Economic Development Association and the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, are hosting an exciting Million Dollar Challenge for emerging minority-owned businesses. Modelled after the TV show “Shark Tank,” the challenge will give up to 20 minority-owned businesses the opportunity to present a 5-minute pitch of their business plan to a panel of experts from various industries. The panel will select 10 semi-finalists, who will then move on to the second phase — a “business accelerator” where they’ll receive coaching and feedback from industry experts and exposure to potential investors.
Four winners will be selected at an event held in St. Paul in January (bring your longjohns!). The winners will divide $1 million in financing provided in part through a grant from Next Fund for Innovation, a pilot program developed by Wells Fargo and several other financial institutions in 2017.
The Meda Million Dollar Challenge is open to minority-owned businesses in the following industries:
- Business operations
- Cleantech and Energy
- Food and Beverage
- Healthcare and Biotechnology
- Media and Entertainment
- Retail and Commerce
Serivce providers, consultancies, software developers and firms that produce a physical product are all invited to apply. The application deadline is 5 p.m. Central Time on Sept. 12, 2018. Visit the YouNoodle website and create an account to submit your application online.
In the works since June, the Million Dollar Challenge is part of the Twin Cities effort to become the Start-up Capital of the North. As part of Start-Up Week, the city is even sponsoring a limited number of free flights for people looking for employment with start-ups in the state.
Headquartered in Minneapolis, Meda is a counselor and lender that services minority-owned businesses exclusively. Currently under the leadership of CEO Gary Cunningham, the 47-year- old organization oversees a portfolio of nearly $20 million — up from just $5 million since Cunningham took the reins in 2014. Meda is backed by foundations, banks, and other investors who provide access to capital and counseling for emerging minority-owned businesses. Its goal is to help fledgling firms gain access to traditional lenders by building their capacity and expertise.
“Meda has a wonderful legacy of creating economic opportunities for people of color,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter in a statement to the Star Tribune last June. “This competition is a bold way to empower aspiring minority entrepreneurs, who will have means to create more living-wage jobs … and help improve quality of life for many,” he said.
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