Midland Entrepreneurial Contest & Thriving Startups
16 Sep 2019
The Midland Entrepreneurial Challenge (MEC) is launching companies and diversifying Midland’s economy. Midland has a strong entrepreneurial culture, with more startups than Silicon Valley. The creative and enterprising spirit of the people, combined with the presence of large corporations and local support, has created this thriving ecosystem. Still, the Midland Development Corporation (MDC), Mayor Jerry Morales and the UTPB Small Business Development Center (SBDC) wanted to further diversify an economy heavily reliant upon the oil and gas industry. Supporting homegrown businesses was a natural choice. When the SBDC presented the idea of an entrepreneurial challenge, the MDC board enthusiastically supported it.
The resulting MEC program launched in 2017 with the support and collaboration of the MDC, SBDC, local government and businesses. The entrepreneurial challenge is a business competition but also an opportunity for collaborators and leaders trying to find the best ways to support emerging businesses. The SBDC nurtures this environment by offering comprehensive support to contestants. This includes topic-driven workshops, interaction with consultants, and access to community partners who are providing multiple resources. This process is designed to help entrepreneurs lay a strong foundation for their business, and to gain the tools and resources necessary to grow it. Those who win the competition also benefit from financial support. The MEC was initially funded with $250,000 in 2017, which was divided among four winners. In 2018, MDC increased the available prize funding to $350,000, which was disbursed to six winning businesses. Half a million dollars will be awarded this year to the winning entrepreneurs, who will be announced in October 2019.
When asked what was unique about the MEC, Michael Crain, SBDC Regional Director, and Bryan Bierwirth, SBDC Business Challenge Consultant, said, “If you have a business idea or are a small business looking to expand, the MEC provides a unique and extraordinary opportunity not found anywhere else to turn dreams into innovative initiatives. The business challenge gives startups validation, networking opportunities, and exposure to develop their business knowledge and skills.”
The positive effect of the MEC on Midland’s startup business community has been overwhelming. All ten of the past winning businesses are meeting or exceeding the expectations laid out in their business plans. These are incredible numbers, given the high number of startups that don’t succeed.
So, what’s different about Midland? Why are startups thriving here?
It comes down to the ideal convergence of opportunity, support and resources. Midland is one of the fastest growing economies in the United States so there are an abundance of opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to launch or grow a business. The support is evident in how the community responds to new businesses, both by becoming customers and wanting to work for startups. As for resources, the MEC only highlights the willingness of everyone in the community to support small businesses. Through the challenge, entrepreneurs have access to an entire curriculum designed to help them succeed, along with consultants to guide them through the process. Those who win receive financial support and additional tools to help them grow their business. As a result, Midland’s entrepreneurs aren’t bootstrapping their business in isolation. Instead, they are launched by a community of supporters. Truly, there is no better place to launch a business than in Midland, Texas.