ERIE, PA - On Wednesday, September 20th, the Idea Fund - a new non-profit organization focused on funding early entrepreneurial development with priorities given to women, minorities and veterans - will launch its first initiative, The Starting Line, a pre-seed funding competition that will be fully detailed at a 10:00 a.m. media event. 

The Idea Fund non-profit enterprise bears witness to the commitment of Erie businessman Samuel P. “Pat” Black, III, to investing, creating and managing innovative companies to capitalize on economic opportunities in the Lake Erie region and beyond. It is Black’s visionary leadership that has created organizations such as Erie Management Group, SB3 Properties, and Lake Erie Biofuels dba HERO BX alongside co-founding the Black Family Foundation and the Innovation Collaborative.

“This competition is designed to help early stage entrepreneurs take the first step toward starting or growing a business through an exciting and risk-free environment,” according to Rebecca Styn, Director of Nonprofit and Community Investment at Erie Management Group. Styn indicates that the process is very simple. “Applicants only need to upload a 90-second video to our website, describing their idea. If applicants make it to the second round, mentors will work with them to help them create a business plan and financials. After that it’s all up to them.” The final round will consist of a pitch competition in front of a panel of local judges to determine the overall winners.

This new initiative expects to attract applicants that want to bring solutions to the challenges faced by our community.  The goal is to get early entrepreneurs off the ground and the competition is open to any individual 18 and older residing in and with the intent of commercializing, growing and maintaining a business in Erie County, PA.

Idea Fund will offer over $20k in awards, with top prizes of $5k each. Up to an additional $10,000 (total) in grant funding may also be awarded through Ben Franklin Technology PArtners if a winning application has a strong tech-component to it. According to Liz Wilson, Director of Marketing for Ben Franklin, “As local seed investors for tech-startups, we are excited to participate in The Starting Line competition and hope that our grant can help a winning tech-initiative go from startUP to UP and running.”

"Problems are Opportunities!"

Applications will be accepted for a service, project, application, business idea, manufacturing or technology initiative that will address everyday problems.

The deadline for entries is October 31, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. and can be submitted after the press event tomorrow at

The press event will begin at 10 a.m. tomorrow, September 20th, in the lobby of SB3 at 1540 East Lake Road, Erie, PA 16511. 





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