Galesburg’s Sustainable Business Center has announced the opening of its competitive grant cycle for The Bluestem Grant, a new incubation program offered for entrepreneurs with promising sustainable business ideas in the early stages of implementation.
The program is open to new startups and also individuals that haven’t yet registered or incorporated their business ideas. Applications are due July 17th with award notifications made by August 1st. The incubation year begins September 1st.
In addition to cash awards up to $15,000 for the three selected finalists, The Bluestem Grant program offers competitively priced, subsidized rent at the Sustainable Business Center, and a year-long schedule of seminars and workshops covering business fundamentals and sustainability essentials. The educational component of the program offers a week-long intensive for all grantees and follow-up supports will be tailored to the particular needs of the grantees. Relocation assistance may also be awarded, depending on a grantee’s circumstances. There are no residency requirements, however, applicants must live and operate in Illinois.
“Ever since learning about a St. Louis program, we have been researching business incubators in other communities to determine how to introduce a unique program through the Sustainable Business Center to attract new business for Galesburg,” says Special Projects Director Nancy Iscovitz of HumanLinks Foundation which provides oversight of the center. “We presented the concept to members of our local Advisory Board Group about a year ago. Once securing approval for investing in the project, we engaged the local firm of Dynamic Sustainability Consulting to help fine-tune the program concept and create documentation so we could launch The Bluestem Grants this spring.”
Why “bluestem”? According to Iscovitz, this symbol resonates on many levels and ties in nicely with the Sustainable Business Center philosophy as a business incubator. The Big Bluestem, the official prairie grass of Illinois, is deeply rooted, flexible and resilient, and has filled an essential ecosystem role in tallgrass prairies for millions of years.
With the bluestem as inspiration throughout this program, the Sustainable Business Center builds on its past successes and strives to create more business opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses that embrace environmental sustainability and responsibility through innovation and practice. Grantees will be productive in the face of environmental and social change, providing widespread benefits well into the future.
Ideal candidates for Bluestem Grants will be committed to operate as a sustainable business, already have a prototype of their product or detailed service delivery plan, and be ready for production and distribution.
This business incubator program is designed to help entrepreneurs improve the sustainability of all aspects of their business, in order to prepare them to graduate and operate as a high-profile example of truly sustainable business practices, and an agent of positive change in the broader business environment.
As the grantee businesses grow, they will also enrich the west-central Illinois community through economic development and provide local employment opportunities. At the end of the incubation program (one year), businesses may continue to operate out of the Galesburg Sustainable Business Center, with a gradual reduction of rent subsidy.
Former tenants of the 88,000-square-foot incubator include Lamboo Technologies LLC (graduate), Blackburn Sampling, the Entrepreneurship Center for the City of Galesburg, and Pennycress. Currently the Sustainable Business Center houses IntelliHot Green Technologies, Sitka Salmon Shares, Jerry’s Mojo, and en season restaurant, which features locally sourced farm-to-table seasonal dining.