Stanislaus innovators can enter business contest

People with bright ideas that might turn into business success can take part in the first Stanislaus Innovation Challenge.

Contestants will make their pitches to a panel of three experienced entrepreneurs at regional events, starting Sept. 17 in Modesto and moving on to Oakdale, Patterson and Turlock. The finals will be Dec. 10 in Modesto, with the winner receiving $2,500 in cash and $2,500 in professional services.

The contest is open to Stanislaus County residents and other people who own businesses or attend college here. It is part of the Stanislaus Business Alliance’s Jumpstart Stanislaus program and is co-sponsored by Wells Fargo and The Modesto Bee.

“The program will help determine if an entrepreneur’s idea has commercial potential, assist him or her in developing the idea into a viable concept and then help those with the best concepts locate and secure funding,” according to a news release announcing the challenge.

The alliance already was a partner in the San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge, a Stockton-based competition that covers eight counties. The winner of the new event will be entered in the sixth annual San Joaquin contest next year. He or she also will get a chance to make a pitch for even more funding to the Stanislaus/Merced Angels investment group.

The Stockton event, which picks winners via expert judges and audience voting, has been dominated by entries from Stanislaus County. Amalia’s Cocina of Denair won in 2011 with a line of natural Mexican sauces. John Paoluccio followed in 2012 with an odor-controlling device for sewer manholes. Rich Ison topped the 2013 contest with security doors made in Riverbank. Mark Coons of Modesto won this year with a gun vault concealed behind artwork.