First-ever Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition to be held in conjunction with 2019 SOAR Summit

Published 10:48 am Tuesday, July 30, 2019

PIKEVILLE — Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), in partnership with the Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation office and USDA Rural Development, are hosting the first-ever Startup Appalachia Pitch competition on Thursday, September 5, 2019 at New Beginnings Fellowship Church.

The event is in conjunction with the 2019 SOAR Summit scheduled for September 5-6 at Appalachian Wireless Arena (formerly the East Kentucky Expo Center). The top pitch will go home with a $5,000 cash prize. A runner-up and third-place award will be $2,500 and $1,000, respectively.

Those interested in making the pitch must apply at Applicants must be located in one of Kentucky’s 54 Appalachian counties. They will also be required to answer a series of questions and submit a business plan. The deadline for applications is August 16, 2019. A committee will evaluate each application and invite a group of finalists to make their pitch at the September 5, 2019 event.

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SOAR launched its SOAR Innovation program earlier this year. This is a collaboration with the Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation Office that provides services to businesses that wish to scale-up, expand markets, and/or create new markets by utilizing technology, and to entrepreneurs whose idea has the capacity to reach customers outside of the region.

“Our partnership with the Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation office has allowed us to deploy a team of business and innovation champions throughout Appalachia Kentucky and offer the services of our network of partners,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR.

“What we have learned is that the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving throughout our region, and our boots-on-the-ground approach is allowing those who have ideas to have a champion working on their behalf each and every day to turn their dream into a reality.”

Jason Rainey, deputy executive director of KY Innovation, said the Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition is an opportunity to showcase how the people of Appalachia Kentucky are leveraging technology to create their own future.

“It is remarkable to see the ideas that are coming out of communities across eastern Kentucky,” said Rainey. “These startups are leveraging our greatest resource in the Commonwealth – our people, and collaborations, such as this, is leveraging resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses like never before. This work is critically important to making sure that Appalachia Kentucky is a place of endless opportunities to plant and grow a business.”

Successful pitch applications should address the following components:

SCALABLE | We are looking for Businesses/Ideas with existing customers and revenue that are looking to scale their business. Innovative Businesses that are still in the concept phase will be considered.

MARKET | We are looking for Businesses that are providing a service and/or product that has a market outside of your community and preferably, outside of Appalachia.

TECHNOLOGY | We are looking for Businesses that are leveraging technology in their business sales, production, and/or marketing processes.

LOCATION | Primary business operations should be based out of one of the 54 Appalachian designated counties in Kentucky.

TEAM | We believe in the importance of a strong team; preference will be given to businesses who have a strong leadership team in place.

The Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition is also supported by our resource partners: Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED), Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), Kentucky’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and Invest 606.

For more information on the Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition, contact Ryan Jones at (606) 766-1160 or by email at