The Power of Pivot

May 22, 2020Brock New, Director of Business Development and Marketing for the Chamber's Industrial Foundation

Fierce. Intense. Unprecedented. Regardless of the type of competition, these three adjectives describe the challenge and excellence that competition brings out in people, and these three words describe this year’s BE in Abilene Competition perfectly.

For those who are not familiar with the annual BE in Abilene Competition, it is an entrepreneurial competition that was developed and is funded by the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA). The main purposes of the competition are to fund local entrepreneurial companies and create an innovative entrepreneurial culture in Abilene.

The competition is a collaboration of four organizations working together to support the growth of entrepreneurialism in Abilene. BE in Abilene empowers the other partnering organizations to work together to Build Entrepreneurs in Abilene (see what we did there?). The Abilene Industrial Foundation markets the competition, driving applicants and managing the overall process. ACU’s Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy executes the judging portion of the competition, utilizing an independent panel of judges made up of successful local entrepreneurs. America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Texas Tech works to develop individualized business plans with all participants in the competition, pairing each participant with a business counselor.

Fierce. The industry breakdown of this year’s competition was particularly diverse. To give you an idea of how diverse the lineup was, here are a few industries that were represented: skincare manufacturing, coffee roasting, premium ice cream production, distilling and jewelry manufacturing. There seems to be a mirroring effect in each year’s competition: a small-scale cycle of trends that we see reflected in the larger business world. For example, consider food manufacturing: one of the fastest growing industries in the US, and in this year’s competition, we had two food manufacturers. With diversification like this, there was no room for half-baked ideas or hesitancy.

David Smith, Executive Director of the SBDC said, “The companies in this year’s competition are the strongest we have seen yet. This class of finalists are go-getters, and they have been a pleasure to work with. We look forward to seeing all of them grow in Abilene.”

Intense. As the competition got underway, one thing became clear: the businesses in this competition came to win. “The businesses participating in this year’s competition were very strong. The judging panel was impressed with the overall quality, which made for a close competition.” Jim Litton, Director of ACU’s Griggs Center.

Unprecedented. Enter COVID-19. In March, the partnering organizations met to discuss the competition in light of COVID-19 with clear intentions by the DCOA to make it happen. The partners discussed what pivoting the competition’s format would look like as well as any pitfalls that might arise. In short, we made and executed a plan to host the competition virtually by utilizing video conferencing throughout the latter half of the six-month process.

It is amazing what can happen in the midst of adversity with the right teams in place. We have completed the third year of BE in Abilene successfully. “I am proud of our BE in Abilene partnering organizations’ persistence in this year’s competition. The mission of the program is to fund entrepreneurs, and we have accomplished that mission in a big way. For the first time in the program’s history, all $250,000 of the possible award money is being granted, funding three local entrepreneurial companies.” Misty Mayo CEO of the Development Corporation of Abilene.

From start to finish: Fierce. Intense. Unprecedented. Full details on the three award winners will be released in early June.

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