Entrepreneurs win thousands of dollars in SIU’s 2023 business plan competition

Winners of the competition

With the grand prize check are (from left) Melissa Ray Roach, director of entrepreneurship and business development and of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU; Matt Harmon, Regions Bank assistant vice president; Scott Hamilton-Brehm of Thermaquatica; Constantinos Tsatsoulis, SIU vice chancellor for research and graduate school dean, and SIU Chief of Staff Matt Baughman. (Photo provided)

December 08, 2023

Entrepreneurs win thousands of dollars in SIU’s 2023 business plan competition

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and ingenuity of Southern Illinoisans were celebrated at the recent Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and $20,000 dollars in cash and prizes were awarded.

In the Southern Illinois Business Plan Competition Powered by Regions Bank, Thermaquatica, a Carbondale carbon-recycling company represented by Scott Hamilton-Brehm, took first place honors and $5,000 cash along with $2,000 in marketing services from the Arthur Agency, a one-hour strategy session and five hours of legal work from Legal Advocacy Headquarters.

Also claiming top prizes were:

  • Second: Harrison Sleep Lab, a Du Quoin health care business, represented by Chad Harris. Second prize included $3,000, along with a one-hour strategy session and three hours of legal work from Legal Advocacy Headquarters.
  • Third: Illinois Ozarks Merchandising, an Elizabethtown retail and wholesale memorabilia company promoting Southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest, represented by Elizabeth Canfarelli. Third prize was $2,000.

“We were delighted to be a part of the recent business plan competition, which had an initial participation of 31 businesses,” said Melissa Ray Roach, director of entrepreneurship and business development and of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU. “It was truly inspiring to see 19 ventures not only complete the competition process but compete and showcase a diverse array of innovative ideas. The turnout reflects the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit within our region.

“The Illinois SBDC at SIU was thrilled to be able to provide no-cost advice and workshops to help support these local businesses through the competitive process, and the center looks forward to building on this momentum, continuing to be a catalyst for growth and success in the local and regional economies. The commitment of the small-business owners is a driving force, and our office is proud to be a vital part of their journey.”

Additional winners

The first phase of the competition was local rounds in Marion, Mount Vernon, and two cohorts in Carbondale, in which the first-place winners earned $1,000 prizes, while second-place winners claimed $500 prizes.

The winners, listed in alphabetical order with location and company principal, include:

First place:

  • Harrison Sleep Lab, Chad Harris.
  • Illinois Ozarks Merchandising, Elizabeth Canfarelli.
  • Plug Boss LLC, a Carbondale new electrical component product launch, J. Mike Knaga.
  • Thermaquatica, Scott Hamilton-Brehm.

Second place:

  • Book A Book Box, a Cobden gift business, Kaitlyn Morrison.
  • Fired Up Jellies and Jams, a Carbondale packaged food products company, Michael Smith.
  • Radiance Coaching LLC, a Marion health and wellness coaching company, Nicole Hillard.
  • Soles, a Carbondale compression socks business, Khiyah Ransom.

Officials from SIU and Regions Bank were on hand for the grand prize awards presentations Nov. 30.

“Our team at Regions Bank always looks forward to being part of this innovative competition,” said Matt Harmon, Regions Bank assistant vice president. “We’re grateful to the entire SBDC and SIU team for their dedication in making the showcase possible and to the contestants for their creativity and courage in pitching their big ideas. Regions is committed to elevating entrepreneurship because we believe when small businesses thrive, the entire community thrives. We’re proud to support the showcase winners as they take the next step in growing their ideas and businesses.”

Additional financial support for the competition was provided by Clearwave Fiber, First Southern Bank, Legend Bank and SIU Now.