A Publication of WTVP

The economy is starting to rebound. The Peoria MSA unemployment rate is dropping and “applications being accepted” signs are showing up in store windows. While we are still not out of the woods, we are seeing signs of recovery. It is still difficult because many of our friends and neighbors have found themselves out of work and wondering what they are going to do next. Some are retraining and hitting the pavement looking for new work, while others are taking this opportunity to turn their dreams into reality by launching their own business.

This is the perfect time for entrepreneurship to thrive. It is proven that in slower economic times, people are looking for new opportunities and potential revenue streams, and many investors are looking for investment opportunities. This is a good time for new products to be launched and for people to take that leap to start their innovative projects. Yet starting a new business isn’t a task to take lightly. It takes planning, hard work, the right resources, financial backing and a lot of perseverance. Not to mention, you need a really good idea just to get started.

In order to assist those who have good business ideas, a competition called LAUNCH was created last year. The LAUNCH Business Creation Competition is open to anyone who has a new business idea for the Tri-County Area. It was created by the East Peoria, Pekin and Peoria Area Chambers of Commerce, the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, Morton Economic Development Council, SCORE, and Bradley University’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship and the Technology Commercialization Center.

Ken Klotz, director of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University, says that sometimes people who are considering a business startup just need a little nudge to take the leap. “The LAUNCH competition provides them an avenue to become comfortable with the thought of owning their own business, to test the feasibility of their idea, and to get constructive advice before risking their resources,” said Klotz.

Since the 1980s, the Peoria Metro Region has added over 50,000 new jobs. We can credit many of these jobs to the entrepreneurial spirit. Small businesses are the creators of most of the jobs in our economy. In the past year, the Illinois SBDC at Bradley assisted with 40 new business starts, which led to more than 300 new jobs. Those jobs in turn lead to local spending and tax revenue generation. Most experts agree that small businesses will lead the way out of the recent recession and will be the first ones to create new jobs.

If someone has a small business idea, it is vitally important to nurture that idea—and that’s what LAUNCH does. Klotz says this group is taking an active role in growing the regional job base. “From a more emotional standpoint,” he says, “we are helping someone achieve one of their life’s dreams of owning their own business.”

Launching a new business can be frightening, but if you don’t give it a try, you’ll never know if you have the next best thing or not. If you have an idea for a new business, the LAUNCH Business Creation Competition could be the key to making that dream come true. There is no application fee, but the deadline for entries is September 7, 2010. Applications will be reviewed by a panel and contestants will then be assigned to one of the three preliminary round locations. Preliminary rounds will be held on September 28th, 29th and 30th in three different parts of the region. The finals will be hosted at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center on October 13th.

The winner will receive cash prizes and a multitude of consulting services to get their business up and running properly. All contestants who present their plans in the preliminary rounds will receive feedback and suggestions from the panel of judges.

For more information, visit or contact Ken Klotz, director of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University at (309) 677-2992 or [email protected]. iBi