About the Contest

Southern Bancorp awards winning entrepreneurs with seed capital to turn their business concepts into start-ups.

What’s at Stake?

Entrepreneurs could win a $25,000 Enterprise Award or a $15,000 Insight Award.

Who Can Enter?

Anyone with an idea for a business in Helena-West Helena.

Develop a business plan for your concept and you can compete for cash to start and grow your business.



Giving the green light to innovative start-ups.

Join the Challenge!

1. Contact us to complete your pre-application meeting.
Call Dustin Choate at 870-816-1117 or email dustin.choate@southernpartners.org today!

2. Begin your business plan.
We will share our business plan guide with you to help you with your Helena Start-Up Challenge application.

3. Collect more information.
As you develop your business plan, you will gather more information about your business and industry.

4. Finish and submit your business plan to Southern Bancorp.

Applications are due by September 30, 2014


Skip To: Process Rules Back to Top


The Helena Start-Up Challenge is open to entrepreneurs who:

  • Have an original business concept or own an early stage business with revenue less than $25,000 during 2013.Plans may describe any legal commercial activity except for liquor and tobacco stores, adult entertainment and product stores, and pawn shops.
  • Be 18 years of age or older.
  • Submit business plans individually or with teams.
  • Be able to provide a dollar-for-dollar match for an award.
  • Be willing to start businesses described in their plans in Helena-West Helena within one year of receiving their award.
  • Winners agree to remain in Helena-West Helena for three years from its start date.


Start-up Criteria

A review panel will assess applications based on the following criteria.

Commercial Opportunity
  • C­ommercial Potential—the product or service solves the identified problem or need and people will pay for it.
  • Growth Potential—the business exhibits a high potential for growth in revenue and profits.
  • Innovative Concept & Feasible Technology—the business is built upon an original, innovative, and promising concept. In addition, it relies upon feasible and affordable technology.
  • Sustainable Competitive Advantage—the likelihood that the business described in the plan can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.
Market Factors
  • Demonstrated Target Market—the target market for the product or service is clearly described and there is reason to believe that the target market will demand the product or service.
  • Effective Pricing Strategy—the pricing strategy positions the business to take advantage of the market opportunity. The price points for products or services account for costs and promote profitability. The price also fits the target market.
  • Sales & Distribution—the sales strategy and distribution plan fits the business model and has proven effective in other businesses or industries. The team has a sales strategy that they are prepared to execute.
Management Capability of the Team
  • Skills of the Entrepreneur—the entrepreneur (and management team) has the experience and skill set to start and grow their business.
  • Operations Plan—the plan presents a clear overview of the day-to-day operations of the business, and the plan is sufficient in quality and detail.
  • Strong Business Analysis—the entrepreneur accurately identifies strengths, weaknesses, and risks that affect the business model, and proposes a plausible approach to exploit the strengths and minimize the risks to the business.
Financial Strength
  • Start-up Capital—the amount of start-up capital is sufficient and reasonable for the business model. The entrepreneur articulates a plan for raising the remainder of the cash needed to start the business.
  • Sales Volume—the sales volume for each period and growth projections appear realistic. The financial projections suggest the business can reach profitability in a timetable that is achievable. The estimates appear relatively conservative.
  • Cash Flow—the cash flow projections afford the company enough time to achieve profitability, given the costs to the business. The business plan accounts for all the anticipated expenses in the projections. The projections reflect the market and are plausible.
  • Sound Assumptions—the assumptions are listed in the plan and reflect realities of the market, provide a better understanding of the business, and are supported by research or documentation.

Review Process

Business Plan Scoring

The Review Panel will use the Start-up Criteria to score each entry. The 14 criteria are divided into four categories, with equal weight given to each one.

Pitch Event

The review panel will invite the 6 highest scoring applicants to pitch their business concepts in-person. The review panel will apply the same Start-up Criteria at the pitch event and consider the applicants’ business plans and their pitch together to determine which entrepreneurs receive incentive award offers.


Contact Southern Bancorp today to apply to the Helena Start-Up Challenge. Call Dustin Choate at 870-816-1117 to arrange your pre-application meeting. You will receive a business plan guide at the meeting and learn more about the competition.

The application deadline is September 30, 2014. Applications should reflect business concepts that are actionable, and applicants should be prepared to start businesses in Helena-West Helena.