Startup weekend coming to ASU

Published 11:59pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NATCHEZ — Sometimes good ideas don’t get off the ground because the people who have them don’t know where to start.

Next weekend, local economic development gurus hope to give would-be entrepreneurs the advice they need to start their dream businesses.

The Alcorn State University School of Business in Natchez will host startup weekend Feb. 22-24. The event is cosponsored by Natchez Inc.

“Startup weekend takes people with small business ideas, and they come to the weekend, and for 54 hours they spend time together brainstorming and sharing ideas,” ASU Assistant Vice President for Educational and Community Partnerships Ruth Nichols said. “They will be getting assistance from professional mentors for marketing or other financial concerns, they can talk about customer development, they can get validation for their ideas or found out that their idea is not a very doable thing.”

“They can stay here the whole 54 hours if they want to.”

At the beginning of the weekend, all of the participants will have one minute to pitch their ideas, Nichols said.

“The ideas that seem to have the best chance of success are chosen, and those people work as a team for the next 54 hours,” she said. “They present their final project and product on Sunday afternoon, and a panel of judges ranks them. During that presentation, there are potential investors in the room.

Those who the judges decide have the best idea will win prizes, including six months free in the ASU business incubator, Nichols said.

“This is a real advantage for somebody who wants to start a business,” she said. “These people build a network that they can rely on for a very long time, and sometimes the attendees walk away with jobs or they walk away with an investor.”

Sartup weekend is sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, and is coming to Natchez as part of a rural jobs acceleration grant. Four cities — Natchez, Greenville, Starkville and Tupelo — will serve as hubs for the grant. Natchez will serve as the first location.

Nichols said organizers hope to draw not only Natchez residents and ASU students, but people from Jackson and Baton Rouge as well.

“The idea is to inspire these people and empower them to help their idea come to fruition and help it become a small business,” Nichols said. “Small businesses are the fastest-growing economic development tool anywhere.”

Participation in the weekend will cost $18 for students and $35 for non-students.

Those who wish may register ahead of time at www.natchez.startupweekend.org.