The Next Big Idea Contest

Submissions for this form are closed.

Ignite! 2014 Ideas Contest

Attention all start-ups, small business owners, social entrepreneurs, savvy studentsbig thinkers, and go-getters. We’ve got a proposition for you. EngenuitySC and Wells Fargo are teaming up to give away $5000 for your ideas!

Everything You Need to Know

  • Ideas Contest Open for Submissions: Friday, September 19

  • Ignite ideas contest submission closes: Friday, October 24

  • Top 5 submissions are notified: Friday, October 31

  • Interviews of Top 5: Thursday, November 6

  • Top 3 (who will present at Ignite!) selected and notified: Friday, November 7

  • Ignite! Dress Rehearsal: Tuesday, November 18

  • Presentations at Ignite! and winner announced: Wednesday, November 19

Who can enter?

  • Must live in the South Carolina Midlands (which includes Calhoun, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland)
  • Individuals
  • Organizations (if entering on behalf of an organization, be sure to list your pitch person as the main contact)
  • Students (including those who are entering The Proving Ground competition)
  • Sorry! Past Ideas Contest winners are not eligible to enter


What is the deadline for entry? When will the winner be chosen? 

  • Any great idea, from a new product to a novel business solution.
  • Ideas should be well-thought out, exciting and represent a chance to use $5,000 to start something innovative.


What kinds of ideas are usually winners? What's the vibe of the contest? 

  • We’re looking for ideas that excite and people who embody the spirit of entrepreneurship. 
  • Winning ideas can be in development stages or truly just an idea. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a full-blown business plan. 
  • An upbeat, exciting presentation is just as important as the idea itself: after all, our $5,000 Wells Fargo grand prize will be awarded to a winner chosen by the live audience at Ignite! The audience at Ignite! includes 600 movers, shakers and groundbreakers in the Midlands. It’s a mix of business leaders, elected officials, entrepreneurs, students, and little bit of everything else. Inviting your posse to Ignite! has its benefits - and could help push you over the edge to win! 

What's the process? 

  • Submit a summary of your idea (about 250 words or so).
  • Tell us how your idea will start something new, exciting, innovative, or just plain awesome.
  • Record a 2 minute video explaining your idea and upload to our site.
  • If selected as a semi-finalist, you’ll present to a panel of judges.
  • If you make the cut, you’ll be invited as a finalist to present live at the event. Bring your entourage. Wild cheering encouraged.

How do I enter? 

  • Fill out the entry form below. It will include space for a 250-word summary of your idea where you should outline the challenge, your solution and how $5,000 from Wells Fargo could kickstart your plan. 
  • Record a two-minute video highlighting your creative presentation skills. Remember, you're trying to sell someone on your idea - get creative and have fun with it! Samples from last year's finalists are below.
  • Our judges will narrow down the entries to five semi-finalists. If selected as a semi-finalist, you’ll present to a panel of judges. The judging panel will select the top three finalists. If you’re one of top three finalists, you’ll be invited to present live at Ignite! 2014. The winner will be selected by the audience at the event.

How will I win? What are the judges looking for? 

  • Name & Why you’re participating
  • What’s your big idea?  
  • Concept pitch: what is it and why does it matter?
  • Relevancy to Columbia: What need does it address and why implement it here?
  • Potential impact: How is it going to help our community, create jobs, etc?
  • Realistic execution: How exactly will you use the prize money to pull it off?
  • Special sauce: What makes your idea the best?


Ready to enter?

Fill out the form below. If you have more questions, we have a full list of additional information here. Now - go make movie magic!