Taking a tiger by the tail

June 12th, 2015

News Coverage:

Taking a tiger by the tail

Wells County’s new strategy to spur entrepreneurship

Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2015 11:00 pm | Updated: 6:51 am, Fri Jun 12, 2015.

By Aimee Ambrose

Entrepreneurs will compete tooth and claw this summer for a chance to start a new business expense-free in downtown Bluffton.

The Wells County Chamber of Commerce and Wells County Economic Development have partnered with downtown revitalization group, Bluffton Now!, to launch a new program called “Tiger Tank."

The premise follows that of the reality TV competition, “Shark Tank,” where contestants will pit their enterprise plans against each other to see who comes out on top. The “tiger” in “Tiger Tank” is an homage to Bluffton High School’s mascot.

“This is brand new, and it’s the first time we’ve ever done it,” said Michael Daniels of the county’s chamber. “The goal is for it to create a successful and sustainable business.”

The first round kicked off a few weeks ago when the competition began accepting applications from contestants.

Applications are still being accepted online at the chamber’s website, Wellscoc.com/tigertank. The deadline is July 1. After that, a panel of judges will examine the entries and decide who will progress to round two.

In that round, the remaining contestants will develop a business plan for the judges to review. Those who make the cut move on to round three where the top competitors will take their ideas before the judges to receive input and make revisions.

The fourth and final round, scheduled for Sept. 30, is when the judges will announce a winning plan, Daniels said.

The winner will receive a year of free rent in a building owned by the Wells County Public Library, at 200 W. Washington St. Equipment and furniture valued at about $30,000 will also be available. Additionally, free services from a lawyer, an accountant, a banker, a web designer and an interior designer will be provided for six months.

The Bluffton City Council will offer an interest-free loan up to $10,000, and the city will grant up to $10,000 in a dollar-per-dollar match. The winner doesn’t have to take the full amount of the loan.

“If they don’t need all $10,000, they can accept what they need,” Daniels said.

There is no limit on the number of contestants who can enter. How the rounds progress will depend on the number of competitors.

“It’s truly going to dictate on the applications we receive and their validity,” he said.

The competition administrators will host an open house at the space the library put up as a prize on June 18 to give applicants and potential applicants a look at what they could win.

If the contest is successful, it could be held again in future years with hopes of filling other vacant space in downtown Bluffton, Daniels said.

The Whitley County Economic Development Corp. held a similar competition, called “Illumin8,” from March through April.