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InnovateHER 2017

The Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Champaign County EDC is pleased to host an initial round of the Small Business Administration’s InnovateHER 2017 Business Challenge, a $70,000 prize competition designed to unearth innovative products and services that help impact and empower the lives of women and families.

The workforce looks very different than it did 50 years ago. Women now make up nearly half of the labor force and play a critical role in our nation’s economic prosperity. Most children live in households where both parents work. As our population ages, families are increasingly caring for aging parents while balancing the needs of work and home. As demands on women and families grow, the need for products and services that address unique challenges increases. The InnovateHER Business Challenge provides a platform to fulfill that need.

Contestants must develop a product or service that meets the following three Challenge criteria:

  • Has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families (30%);
  • Has the potential for commercialization (40%); and
  • Fills a need in the marketplace (30%).

Eligibility Rules for Participating in the Challenge: This Challenge is open only to: (1) citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time of their submission of an entry (or teams of such individuals); and (2) private entities, such as corporations or other organizations, that are incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. Individuals submitting on behalf of corporations, nonprofits, or groups of individuals (such as an academic class or other team) must meet the eligibility requirements for individual contestants. An individual may belong to more than one team submitting an entry in this Challenge. SBA employees are not eligible, nor are Federal entities or Federal employees acting within the scope of their employment. Individuals or organizations that are currently suspended or disbarred by the federal government are not eligible for this Challenge.

The initial round of the Challenge will take the form of local competitions. Here’s how to apply for the initial round hosted by the SBDC at Champaign County EDC:

To apply, please submit a one-page summary outlining how the business or organization meets the Challenge criteria above and addresses the competition’s goal of improving the lives of women and families along with a business plan of no more than 20 pages (including attachments) to:

Illinois SBDC at Champaign County EDC
1817 S. Neil Street, Suite 100
Champaign, IL 61820

Include your individual or company/organization name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. Electronic submissions (PDF) are encouraged. Email your submission to The deadline to submit an application is 12 pm on Saturday, June 3, 2017.

Local prize money will be awarded thanks to our generous sponsors: First State Bank, Stephens & Stull P.C., Busey Bank, Serra Ventures, Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, and the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Champaign County EDC.

Prizes for local round winners:

  • 1st place – $750
  • 2nd place – $500
  • 3rd place – $250

A judging panel will review submissions and select finalists. Finalists and our winning nominee will be announced no later than June 16, 2017.

First place winners from local competitions will advance to the semifinal and final rounds of the Challenge administered by the Small Business Administration.

Cash prizes totaling $70,000 will be awarded to the three highest-rated contestants in the final round of the Challenge in the following amounts:

  • 1st place – $40,000
  • 2nd place – $20,000
  • 3rd place – $10,000

Use the following links for more information about the program and a complete list of competition rules.

InnovateHER 2017 Website
InnovateHER 2017 Challenge Rules