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Entrepreneurs put business ideas to test

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Contestants will pitch their new or unusual business ideas to judges Thursday with a chance to win cash and other prizes.

Thursday’s Risk It: Indiana competition in Madison celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit and provides a showcase that could launch the next big invention.

The Southeast Indiana Small Business Development Center, which sponsors the competition, will give the seven participants five minutes each to pitch their ideas, followed by another five-minute session to answer questions from judges.

Local entrants include Ben Fogt, a pizza maker with a traveling oven; Jim Gorman and Mark Keillor, with an invention that protects cyclists from the elements; and Dawn Andrews, who turns recyclable materials into art.

The event provides great exposure for entrepreneurs, said Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and one of three judges for the competition.

“It shines a spotlight on what some of the creative, inventive people in the community are working on,” Frey said. “Often entrepreneurs are toiling away in solitude, and this presents an opportunity to get some feedback and also to share what they are doing and get some support.”

Each person who attends the event will be given 10 tickets to vote for their favorite presentation. The person with the highest number of votes wins the audience choice award.

These prizes are at stake:

The first-place contestant will win $2,500 and other prizes, including an opportunity to pitch the product in front of investors and bankers at a future event in Jeffersonville.

The second-place entrant will win $1,000 and other prizes.

The audience choice winner will receive half of the admission fees for the event and also might have an opportunity to show the concept in Jeffersonville.

Prizes for the first- and second-place winners include the opportunity to speak with a patent attorney and other experts about their invention.

Winners will be recognized at an awards luncheon in New Albany later this year, with the first-place contestant having a chance to pitch his or her idea to attendees at the event.

There are seats available for those who want to show support for a local contestant or another inventor or just want to see some of the creative new ideas brewing in the state.

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