About the Challenge

The Helena Start-Up Challenge awards winning entrepreneurs with seed capital to turn their business concepts into start-ups in Helena-West Helena.

What’s at Stake?

The winner of the challenge will receive $25,000 and the runner-up will receive $15,000 to start their businesses in Helena-West Helena.

Who Can Enter?

Anyone with an idea for a business in Helena-West Helena is welcome to apply.

A green light for your business idea & fuel for your start-up.



  • Participants must be 18 years of age.
  • Plans from any legal commercial activity are welcome except for liquor and tobacco stores, adult entertainment and product stores, and pawn shops.
  • Existing businesses with less than $10,000 annual revenue may apply.
  • Business concepts should be feasible and applicants should be willing to start business operations in Helena-West Helena.
  • Business plans may be submitted by individuals or by teams.
  • There is no limit on the number of people on a team.
  • All applications must describe original business concepts.
  • Submissions should focus on a new business or an early stage company.
  • The winner and runner-up in the Challenge must agree to start the businesses described in their applications in Helena-West Helena within one year of winning.
  • The winning business must remain in Helena-West Helena for three years from its start date.

Click here to view a complete list of rules: Helena Start-Up Challenge Rules.

Judging Criteria

Judges will evaluate applications based on the overall likelihood they will succeed in Helena-West Helena and their fit in the community. Judges will use the criteria to score each application. The scores are a tool to assist in the judging process; they are not the only factor used to determine finalists.

The judging criteria fall within the categories listed below:

  • Commercial Potential
  • Market Factors
  • Management Capability
  • Financial Strength

View a complete list of the judging criteria by clicking here: Helena Start-Up Challenge Judging Criteria.

Judging Process

The Challenge will occur in two rounds, the open round and the finals.

Open Round

Participants in the Challenge must submit an application and a Participant Agreement by the deadline, March 31, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. The judges will review and score the applications according to the judging criteria. Judges will meet to determine which entrepreneurs have the most promising business concepts and name up to six finalists.


Finalists will have one month to submit a full business plan for their concept to the judges. Finalists will also deliver a 15-minute presentation to the judges followed by a question and answer session. The judges will deliberate after the presentations to decide the winner and runner-up.

Applicants are encouraged to begin working on their business plans prior to the announcement of finalists due to the short turn around time finalists will have to complete their plans. Finalists will deliver a 15-minute presentation to the judges, followed by a question and answer session. The judges then deliberate and decide upon a winner and runner-up for the Helena Start-Up Challenge.


Apply Now
The application for the Helena Start-Up Challenge contains key information found in a business plan, and completing it should help participants refine their business model.

View the application by clicking here: Helena Start-Up Challenge Application.

To fill out the application, click on the blanks and type your answers. You can save the application file to your computer and work on it in sections. Remember to save your work when you make any changes.

Each applicant must also submit a participant agreement available here: Participant Agreement.

The application deadline is March 31, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. All applications and participant agreements must be submitted by email to dustin.choate@southernpartners.org by the deadline.

Applications should reflect business concepts that are actionable, and applicants should be prepared to start businesses in Helena-West Helena.

The judges will review the applications following the deadline and will name finalists based on the strength of the applications. Finalists will have one month to submit their full business plans to the Challenge, so applicants are encouraged to begin developing full business plans after completing the application.


Contact Us

The best way to contact the Helena Start-Up Challenge is by email. Send all questions and comments to dustin.choate@southernpartners.org. You can also call 870-816-1117 for more information about the Challenge.


The following websites may be helpful as you develop your business concept, application and business plan.

Arkansas Small Business Technology and Development Center

Helena Entrepreneur Center

U.S. Census – County Business Patterns

Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation – Entrepreneurial Resources

Small Business Administration


Carnegie Library of Pittsburg

Business Plan Tutorial

Rhode Island Business Plan Competition – Resources page


Entrepreneur Magazine

Mastercard Business Plan Workbook

Four Easy Steps to Credible Start-up Financials