Grant finalists

About 100 people showed up for the Dream Big, Learn Big, Go Big entrepreneurship competition at Minnesota State University. Four finalists were chosen to compete for a $20,000 grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. The event was organized by MSU's new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy Social Butterfly

MANKATO — A hydroponic garden, makerspace, an entrepreneur support organization and a moving homeless shelter are finalists for a $20,000 matching grant.

The Minnesota State University Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation held a community meeting Wednesday for its Dream Big, Learn Big, Go Big event to encourage local entrepreneurship.

Facilitator Pam Bishop, vice president of economic development with the Initiative Foundation, said she was pleased by the turnout of approximately 100 people from diverse backgrounds.

“There is a lot of passion and energy to create a culture of entrepreneurship in Mankato,” she said.

Seventeen projects were pitched. The attendees selected four not-for-profit ideas for further development.

The finalists include indoor a project for developing hydroponic community gardens in shipping containers. MSU students and community volunteers would help grow produce year-round.

Another advancing idea is an organization with a mission to “equip entrepreneurs with the toolbox they need to succeed with their business idea.” The organization would provide one-on-one customized support to launch a small businesses.

Two finalists were already in development.

A coalition of churches wants to sponsor a homeless shelter for men, women and families. The churches would take turns providing the shelter space.

Another group wants to establish a makerspace facility where entrepreneurs and artists could share tools for a variety of crafts. The cooperative would also offer space for members to work, hold classes and showcase their creations.

More comprehensive proposals will be developed over coming months and presented to a citizen committee in September. The committee will decide to distribute $20,000 provided by the Initiative Foundation to one or more proposals.

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