Kickstart to help up to 3 entrepreneurs develop their businesses

Columbus City Council, the Economic & Community Development Institute, the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, and Capitol South have banded together to rev up area small businesses.

Their unique collaboration has produced Kickstart, a business plan competition that will give up to three entrepreneurs access to considerable development resources.

Winners will each receive a lease for storefronts at either 267, 275, or 281 S. Third St., a location that puts them along a major transportation corridor and less than a block away from Columbus Commons. The first year’s rent is free, and rent the following two years comes at a reduced rate.

“KickStart is removing a major hurdle −the investment in space or a storefront− saving these business owners thousands of dollars in rent so they can reinvest in their product or service,” said Steve Fireman, president and general counsel of ECDI, in a statement. “The most difficult challenge most small business owners face in the first few years of operation is raising enough capital to survive.”

Additional prizes include twelve ECDI business mentoring sessions over one year and access to ECDI’s Business and Education web portal, a one-year membership to the Columbus Chamber and Small Business Beanstalk, one year of free advertising on Columbus Underground, a one-year membership to AmSpirit networking chapter, and $1,000 toward business signage.

The total prize package is valued at more than $26,000.

“One of the ideas coming from a series of small business roundtables hosted by City Council was to find creative ways to help grow businesses in Columbus, and this contest does that,” said Councilwoman Eileen Paley.

Additionally, Kickstart aligns perfectly with City Council’s mission to promote opportunities for small business development, job creation, innovation, and technology integration into worker skill sets, said Councilman Troy Miller who chairs the small & minority business development committee.

The KickStart competition is open to those looking to start a business, as well as the owners of an existing small, independent company. Participants are encouraged to submit business plans for ECDI’s review through March 1.

Up to five finalists will be screened by a panel of judges who will evaluate their business plans based on a variety of criteria, including innovation, feasibility, and sustainability.

“ECDI staff will engage the finalists and help them identify the strengths and weaknesses in their business plans before they are presented to the judges,” said ECDI Founder and CEO Inna Kinney, adding that those plans will provide a solid foundation for business owners long after they participate in KickStart.

Official contest rules and applications can be found at