$100,000 up for grabs in MAGNET's online pitch contest


If you're a product-focused startup or small manufacturer, MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network) has launched an online business pitch competition designed to amp up your brainstorm.

Called [M]SPIRE, the contest is for any local entrepreneur, maker or tinkerer with a unique product and working business plan. Matthew Fieldman, vice president for external affairs at MAGNET, says entrants can be newbie entrepreneurs or mid-size manufacturers ready to pitch job-generating ideas.

Submissions for [M]SPIRE are open and will be accepted through September 30. Participants are asked to fill out an online form asking questions about their target audience and what niche their invention fills.

"This is a non-traditional way of doing a pitch competition," says Fieldman. "Usually people pitch in a room and decisions are made on the spot, often based on charisma. Our contest is more democratic and accessible. It's based on merit, not the quality of the presentation."

Five to 10 winners will receive a portion of $100,000 in prize money to buoy their ventures. Fieldman expects more than 100 entrants. Among the ideas already submitted are a new process for creating rubber tires and a hair dryer developed specifically for African-American hair.

Those not selected get individualized feedback on whether their innovation is viable, based on information from a MAGNET research team.

"We'll do a report on every idea that comes in," Fieldman says. "Many of them will be about intellectual property, so entrants are going to know if they have a market for their product. Everyone's going to get what we're calling 'concierge service.'"

Beyond providing info, MAGNET will also point contestants to the area's plethora of economic organizations and incubators. For example, the state's Small Business Development network has eight regional centers, a potential business-building resource unknown to some would-be entrepreneurs.

"We're going to connect people to an economic development ecosystem that supports small businesses," says Fieldman. "A helping hand can make a tangible difference."

Ultimately, the pitch competition is about jobs, adds the MAGNET VP. Fieldman dreams ahead to someone conjuring up the next Cleveland Whiskey, which began as an idea on a scrap of paper and evolved into a thriving enterprise with eight employees.

"We know who's in the (economic development) network, and we know their specialties," says Fieldman. "We'll guide entrepreneurs to the right place."  

Douglas J. Guth
Douglas J. Guth

About the Author: Douglas J. Guth

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to being senior contributing editor at FreshWater, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture. At FreshWater, he contributes regularly to the news and features departments, as well as works on regular sponsored series features.