Times are good for entrepreneurs in Palm Beach County. A strong local and national economy is creating opportunity, spurred on by a bull market on Wall Street.
The Young Professionals of Wellington are trying to spark further growth and innovation through Xcelerate Wellington 3.0, a competitive grant program that launches right as 2018 arrives.
“We have a core group of members who have the skillset to support start-ups, and through this program, we are able to bring a fresh idea to Wellington and support start-up businesses with our $10,000 grant,” YPOW’s Monica Van Tassel explained. “We aim to spur innovation in our business community by providing a competitive platform where local businesses can share their concepts and develop their success.”
Applications for the opportunity to be awarded a $10,000 grant will be taken beginning Jan. 1 and continue through Feb. 22.
While Xcelerate Wellington 3.0 is open to businesses throughout the region, there will also be a cash prize to the winner of the Home Grown: Local Choice Reward competition, which is only available to businesses based in Wellington.
“Any business that can use a $10,000 capital infusion to take it to the next level should apply,” Van Tassel said.
The online submission must include a two-minute video pitch, and once all the applications have been received, a committee of YPOW members will select up to five finalists.
The finalists will be announced during the first week of March, and they will participate in the live broadcast of the final round of “Xcelerate Wellington 3.0: LIVE at Jump Off” on Saturday, March 31 at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
“The finalists will have a five-minute pitch, and then 10 minutes of questions and answers with the panel of four judges,” Van Tassel said. “The event will also be broadcast live before a full audience — including potential investors.”
All four judges — Mark Bellissimo, Jeff Brown, Martin Hill and Robbin Lee — are returning for the third consecutive year to offer their expertise and guidance to the finalists.
“All of our judges are returning, and their feedback about the business concept is invaluable, we’ve been told by finalists from previous years,” Van Tassel said.
Bellissimo is the managing partner and largest shareholder of Wellington Equestrian Partners, which owns and operates the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the Winter Equestrian Festival, the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, the Wanderers Club and the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Brown is an angel investor and also entrepreneur in residence at Florida International University, as well as a serial entrepreneur, founder of the Fourth Estate Public Benefit Group and a past director of the Gulf Coast Venture Capital Association.
Hill appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank TV show with his invention, the Beebo, to help feed small children, and received a $200,000 investment from two of the “sharks” on the show.
Lee is the CEO of Wellington Regional Medical Center and recently received YPOW’s Community Impact Leader Award.
“We are still at the beginning of our campaign, and we want to get the word out to potential applicants,” Van Tassel said. “Xcelerate Wellington 3.0 is open to everybody, regardless of age, gender or any other qualification.”
Van Tassel said Equestrian Sport Productions is returning as a sponsor this year, but there is plenty of opportunity for more sponsors to join the effort.
“Part of our mission is to help businesses, and be part of helping the next generation of entrepreneurs,” she said. “We want to provide an ‘ecosystem’ — a supporting environment to spur the entrepreneurial conversation in Wellington.”
Van Tassel said the quality of the applicants increased from the first to the second year, and she expects the same this year.
“We have an amazing group of people who continuously step up to make Wellington an even better place, all while balancing families and careers,” Van Tassel said. “We want to bring the energy to Wellington, and we want everything we do to be impactful.”
Tickets for “Xcelerate Wellington 3.0: LIVE at Jump Off” will be available in February. For information about the program, visit www.xceleratewellington.com.