The UNI team believed that a technology solution could be found to identify and attract entrepreneurs so that EDO’s could engage them over the life of their business and that such an approach could improve business owner access to resources and their peers. Building upon the premise that all entrepreneurs want to secure cash grants if possible, the Dream Big Grow Here contests were developed as an attractive cash competition to engage entrepreneurs online, where they could then be connected with resource providers in their home communities and online. As it was developed over the first two years, it also became a powerful tool to foster collaboration between existing service providers and a marvelous way to celebrate small business in the state.

We established multiple success measurements for IGIC:

  1. to connect small business and entrepreneurs with regional economic development organizations,
  2. to encourage small business owners to use technology and to interact with one another online,
  3. to leverage widespread marketing and positive publicity for small Iowa companies,
  4. to enhance the supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state.

 The use of an online contest to attract, learn about and engage large numbers of entrepreneurs is novel. Unlike business plan competitions which attract only small numbers of deeply committed entrepreneurs, Iowa's Great Idea Challenge attracts many entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of business development and across many industries.

How the Contest Works


Step 1 - Apply

Applications will be accepted from February 20, 2017 - March 31, 2017.

Step 2 - Applications judged and industry finalists announced

At the end of March, committees of judges will review and score applications and five finalists from each industry category will advance to Industry Pitch-Offs.

Step 3 - Pitch Coaching

Throughout April, each finalize will receive a pitch template for their idea and you will be connected with various partners to practice and receive feedback on your pitch.


Step 4 - Pitch-Off

Finalists from all industry categories will deliver their pitches at EntreFEST, which takes place on May 4-5 in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Step 5 - Winner(s) Selected

Winners from each industry category will be selected and announced at EntreFEST during an Awards Ceremony.


Prizes for winners in each Industry Category: 

First Place: $1000 
Second Place: $500