What began as a backyard BBQ to raise money for local startups has expanded into a new organization and incubator for entrepreneurs.
was founded to build on the momentum of the first Pittsburgh Business Bout, a competition that awarded $5,000 last year to a young group of entrepreneurs who created an online legal notice search engine called FindNotice.
This year’s Business Bout
, currently underway, is upping the stakes with $25,000 in prize money for the best business plan. The winnings were made possibly through sponsors Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Submissions are due Oct. 31st
Thrill Mill consists of an annual cycle that begins with a large-scale music festival – Baller BBQ – that will not only showcase national music talent, but local music, art, entertainment and business talent. Revenues generated by the festival will be awarded to the winner of a Business Bout.
Lucky applicants in the Business Bout may then gain admission to an early stage business incubator, the Hustle Den, opening early in 2013, where entreprenuers will receive free office space, mentorship, programming and investor relationships, for one full year.
“The security blanket of corporate America is not what it use to be,” explains Bobby Zappala, Thrill Mill CEO. “Startups will become more a part of mainstream growth and certainly this is happening in Pittsburgh. We have all the elements. We just need to encourage those in Pittsburgh to stay here.”
The 5,000 square-foot space was secured with the help of a $750,000 investment from an anonymous donor, says Luke Skurman, of College Prowler and an original founder of Business Bout.
“We want hungry entrepreneurs who are going to go for it,” says Skurman. “All industries are welcome.”
At the conclusion of the cycle, the Hustle Den participants will have an opportunity to pitch their businesses to investors at the next year’s BBQ, and the cycle continues says Skurman.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Bobby Zappala, Luke Skurman, Thrill Mill and Business Bout