DreamFest competition offers $10,000 grand prize to aspiring entrepreneurs


Staff Writer

Thursday, November 16, 2017

An upcoming Shark Tank-like competition will give aspiring entrepreneurs, start-ups and young businesses an opportunity to help finance their business venture.

The Upper Coastal Plain Business Development Center in Wilson is holding the “DreamFest 2018 Regional Business Plan Competition” that’s designed to provide potential and existing entrepreneurs with a real-world experience to develop their business plan. The contestants also are able to network with successful entrepreneurs and business professionals, said Olga Abrams, manager of the Upper Coastal Plain Business Development Center.

The competition will have six finalists that will be announced on Jan. 19. The nominees will pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges comprising seasoned entrepreneurs, business counselors, financial experts and other business professionals for a chance to win prize money. Contest officials said $10,000 will be awarded to the first-place winner, $5,000 to second-place and $2,500 for third-place.

The DreamFest event will be held in front of a live audience from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Edna Boykin Cultural Center in Wilson. A one-page registration form must be completed and submitted by Nov. 30 to enter the competition. There is no entry fee for participants.

Abrams said the contest is open to prospective business start-ups and existing businesses operating less than three years. Entrepreneurs from Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson, Halifax and Northampton counties are eligible to compete in the challenge, as well as entrepreneurs in the counties directly surrounding these five counties.

Greg Godard, CEO of the Upper Coastal Plain Business Development Center, said the DreamFest event has been in the planning stage since July.

Abrams said she hopes people with dreams of running a successful business in the Twin Counties and the other regional areas will take advantage to be a part of the event that will result in them hopefully showing innovative business ideas to a panel of judges. 

Interested candidates are required to submit a completed business plan by Jan. 4. Abrams said the written business plan for will account for 70 percent of the evaluation criteria, while the pitch to judges will account for 30 percent. 

Local residents seeking technical assistance for their business plan can contact Tina Parker, small business development center director at Edgecombe County College or Theresa Peaden, small business development center director at Nash Community College.

Peaden said people can attend the free seminars co-sponsored by the Rocky Mount Mills connected to DreamFest. The first seminar called “How to Write a Winning Business Plan” will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at NCC’s 360 Brew Classroom next to Rambler’s Bottle Shop on the Mills’ campus. It will feature guest speaker Jess McLamb, who is president and founder of the Roper Group, a Raleigh-based accounting firm.

The following night “6 Ways to Dominate a Business Pitch Competition,” will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the 360 Brew Classroom. The presenter will be Dave Neal, co-founder and managing director of the The StartUp Factory, an investment service in Durham. Peaden said people are encouraged to pre-register for both events because of limited seating.

“We’re hoping that someone in our Twin Counties’ area will be able to come away with some of that prize money, and we’re hoping that they will utilize some of the resources that we’re offering them to write very strong business plans,” Peaden said.

For more information on DreamFest, visit www.dreamfest2018.info. For help with business plans, Parker can be reached at 252-823-5166, ext. 253 or at parkertm@edgecombe.edu. Peaden can be reached at 252-451-8233 or at trpeaden297@nashcc.edu.