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Small Business and Retail Brush off your business plans for 2nd annual VC contest

Chula Vista Offers Week of Advice on

Coping in Business

Got a hot idea for a business? If an audience warms to it, you could win some cold cash.

San Diego Venture Group has put out a call for entries in its Second Annual Business Plan Competition. Start-up businesses will compete for a $25,000 cash prize and the chance to pitch themselves in front of more than 300 members of San Diego’s venture community.

Interested companies need to submit a two-page application outlining basic information such as proposed use of funds, annual sales and financing raised, among other things. The application deadline is Aug. 17.

Rich Mejia, president of the San Diego Venture Group, said the purpose of the competition is to help entrepreneurs succeed by offering a unique and fun opportunity to win much needed publicity and a cash prize.

“We realize that $25,000 is not in the ballpark for what these companies identify as their capital needs, but it will get them started or sustain them while they are honing their pitch and learning how to get in front of VCs. We are adhering to the proverbial ‘put your money where your mouth is,'” he said.

During the contest, applicants are screened by a panel of leading business executives, who select nine semi-finalists. These entrepreneurs then present their plans to a panel of judges comprised of local investors, who select the final three start-ups to advance to a live presentation, Mejia said.

During the show, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 10, the entire audience is given the role of “investor” as they decide who gets the $25,000. Through an audience voting poll held the night of the event, one winner will be chosen to receive a $25,000 check on the spot, he said.

Last year’s winner was Akonix Systems, Inc., which recently secured $5 million in its first round of funding. The SDVG’s business plan competition was instrumental in the success of the company’s first round fundraising efforts, said Dmitry Shapiro, chief Strategic Officer for Akonix.

“Its structured format really helped us to focus and refine our message. It was great to have the invaluable guidance and coaching of entrepreneurial experts like John Otterson, Marco Thompson and Bob Bingham. We were delighted to win,” he said.

For more information or to obtain an application, visit the SDVG Web site at (www.sdvg.org), or call (619) 308-9423.

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Meet Me at the Fair:

July 30 starts a week of local business assistance related events and activities sponsored by Chula Vista’s Local Employer Assistance Program. Events include a business fair, a mixer and workshops.

Activities begin 8:30 a.m. Monday with a workshop on storefront merchandising, followed by a Tuesday session on coping with the California energy crisis. A business appreciation luncheon will be held on Wednesday, said Shelly Bailey, business retention specialist for the city of Chula Vista.

The week concludes with the city of Chula Vista’s second annual LEAP fair, starting at 4 p.m. Aug. 2. The event will be held in conjunction with the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce’s monthly business mixer, she said.

For more information, call the Community Development Department at (619) 691-5047.

Native Business Ownership Up:

There are more Native Americans and Native Alaskans owning businesses now than ever before.

Borrego Springs Bank, majority owned by the Viejas band of Kumeyaay Indians, applauded the newest information released from the Census Bureau, showing a sharp increase.

The bureau estimated that from 1992 to 1997, excluding C corporations, the number of native-owned businesses increased by 84 percent, and receipts grew 179 percent

“We are pleased to see the steady growth of small businesses in among American Indians, as well as the Hispanic-, African-American-, Asian, Pacific Islander-, and women-owned businesses. Borrego Springs Bank is honored to have played a small role, said Frank Riolo, president and chief executive officer.

The bank has traditionally been in the business of lending to American Indians and urging them to go into business , a field in which they were usually dead last, he said.

Riolo attributes the renewed interest in owning and running a business to the success of Indian gaming, operated by tribal governments on reservations. The presence of Indian casinos provided entrepreneurial expertise as well as capital, Riolo said.

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Ikea Marks 1 Million:

Home and office furnishings company Ikea announced that it has reached its 1 millionth customer in San Diego in just eight months.

The store marked the event July 14 by giving away free merchandise to randomly selected customers, and also donating children’s bedroom furniture to needy families through the San Diego Habitat for Humanity program.

The donation is a way to demonstrate Ikea’s appreciation for support from customers during the past eight months as well as its commitment to worthy community and humanitarian causes, said Vince Heald spokesman for Ikea.

Have a tip for the small business and retail column? Send to Lee Zion at lzion@sdbj.com, or call (858) 277-6359, Ext. 112. The deadline for the Aug. 13 paper is Aug. 3.


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