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The U.S. Small Business Administration has launched a nationwide competition for entrepreneurs who are developing products and services that will enhance the lives of women and their families.

The 2017 InnovateHER Challenge kicked off earlier this month with local competitions hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA’s resource partners, and other local organizations.

“Through these local competitions, the SBA is still seeking New Jersey entrepreneurs who have created a product or service that will have a measurable impact on women and their families, fills a need in the marketplace, and has the potential for commercialization,” said SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone.

Contestants must develop a product or service that meets the following three Challenge criteria:

  • Has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families (30%);
  • Has the potential for commercialization (40%); and
  • Fills a need in the marketplace (30%).

In New Jersey, the SBA has teamed up with the Monmouth/Ocean Small Business Development Center at Brookdale Community College, The Northwest Jersey Small Business Development Center in Hackettstown and the New Jersey Innovation Institute hosted by the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

According to Titone, entrepreneurs selected by local judges will advance to the semi-final round.  An executive committee comprised of SBA officials will review the semi-final nomination packages and select no more than 10 finalists.  The finalists will then pitch their products and ideas to a panel of expert judges and compete for the top three awards totaling $70,000 in prizes, with a first prize of $40,000; second prize of $20,000; and a third prize of $10,000.

To apply, complete an InnovateHER Challenge application form and submit a business plan not exceeding 20 pages. eThe deadline for applying through the Monmouth/Ocean Small Business Development Center and the Northwest Jersey Small Business Development Center is Wednesday, May 17.

Those interested in participating in the InnovateHER Monmouth/Ocean Small Business Development Center competition can contact center Director Jackeline Mejias-Fuertes at (732) 842-8685 or visit the center’s website at www.mosbdc.com.  Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the Northwest Jersey SBDC competition may contact Mary Adelman of the center at (908) 269-8475 ext. 2, or they may submit their plan to info@nw-njsbdc.com by the May 17 deadline.

The 10 finalists from around the country will travel to the District of Columbia on July 31, where they’ll pitch their products and ideas to a panel of expert judges.  The three national winners will be announced that same day.

“Addressing the needs of women entrepreneurs and the role they play in America’s economy is of the utmost importance to the SBA,” added Titone. “We see this competition as a way of harnessing the power of New Jersey’s entrepreneurs to develop products, services and technologies that support women as they meet the challenges of work and home.  This innovation challenge is a way to help strengthen our economy and empower women to succeed.”

For details on contest rules, visit the SBA’s website.