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Frequently Asked Questions:
Verge Conference Business Pitch Competition

Why should I enter this competition?  

Eligible businesses will compete for fantastic resources to provide a giant step up – or simply help get their business launched. From idea conception to early- and growth-stage development, funding becomes a steep, steady climb that business founders endure. For most, that means:

using their savings or diverting some household funds

getting help from friends and family

selling an asset or

borrowing against an asset

Verge Conference offers funding from $1250 to $100,000 in cash awards that do not have to be paid back. No loan. No financial equity -- simply an opportunity to present your idea, your company, your dream for consideration and a shot at being on stage with nine other finalists. Whichever tier is applied for, participants will find tremendous value in anchoring their business within a growing entrepreneurial hub and its community of mentors, collaborators, and resources.

When does the competition take place?

Verge Conference 2023 applications open March 9th and close March 31st. The main stage event with the top 10 competitors will take place at Gesa Power House Theatre on May 25th. 

Who is eligible to apply?

Privately owned and operated, for-profit enterprises, within Walla Walla, Columbia, and Garfield Counties including sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, social purpose corporations, or Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), subject to further limitations expressed below are eligible to apply. This includes for-profit enterprises that are still in the idea stage and any business with 10 or less employees. For a complete list of disqualifying attributes, please see the eligibility page of this website.

Can nonprofits apply? 

The nature of this particular program is designed to propel revenue-generating businesses, which excludes nonprofits.

What awards are available?

While there is a single application, there are two tiers to choose from. There are  a total of 40 written application (Tier One) cash awards. ( 24  $1,250 and 16  $2,500 ). For the live pitch competition (Tier Two), the top 10 main stage competitors will receive:

one of 6 $5,000 awards
two 4th place awards of $25,000 each
one 2nd place award of $50,000
one top prize of $100,000 will go to the winner of the pitch competition

Is financial equity required to participate?

No, that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to inspire innovation, support great ideas and offer meaningful resources for businesses that are ready to grow and add to the vibrant, rich fabric that makes up our rural communities.

Is it possible to apply for more than one business?

Yes. For example, if you have a primary business that’s your day job, (the income-generating force you wanted it to be), but also have a passion project that’s your, “in-the-best-of-all-worlds, I’d be designing my prototype for a device that teleports fresh pizza to my home oven,” you can also apply for your ZaPizza grant.

Are applications kept confidential?

Any question pertaining to personal identification or financial information is encrypted and restricted to only those with proper authorization. However, the nature of the competition requires a certain degree of latitude with sharing company information and goals. Because we can’t guarantee confidentiality, you’re encouraged not to share trade secrets, proprietary details, specific design features, recipes, intellectual property, or any other confidential information.

What is the order of events from application to the competition?

Verge Conference 2023 applications open March 9th and close March 31st. In April, the top 10 finalists will be selected, and the remaining successful applicants announced by April 21st. The top 10 finalists will have one more round of quick due-diligence questions. During the remainder of April and first weeks of May, pitch competitors will receive preparation and coaching, as well as the scoring rubric to be used on the day of competition. One more Spark Session will be held on April 27th, with a topic relevant both to competitors and area businesses at large. The competition will take place at Gesa Power House Theatre in Walla Walla on May 25th.

How long do main stage competitors have to share their pitch? 

Each competitor will have 7 minutes to tell their story to a live audience. They will likely take advantage of the venue’s huge display, by having a digital deck prepared to run as they speak. Competitors are allowed to have a partner on the stage, as well as any necessary props or product samples.

Who will make up the panel of judges?  

Volunteers have been chosen from our phenomenal pool of area leaders, entrepreneurs, industry experts, professionals, community stewards and supporters who serve as advisors; as the selection committee charged with independently evaluating qualified applicants; and as the group who will form the judges panel that will determine the winners of the main stage competition.

Will I be informed about which judges will review my application?  

While judges may choose to contact applicants after the close of competition to offer support and feedback, applicants will not be informed as to which judges are involved in any of the review processes.

How are the grants funded?  

Verge Conference awards, in partnership with Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, are funded by a grant administered by the Small Business Innovation Fund, Washington State Department of Commerce. Those funds focus on initiatives like the 2023 Verge Conference, that serve the needs of BIPOC entrepreneurs, woman-owned small businesses, and business located in low-income and rural parts of the state.  

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