Crowder College’s MARET Center and the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce announced plans for an entrepreneurial contest Thursday afternoon at the chamber’s quarterly luncheon.

The two are joining together to offer a contest for four-state residents who have an invention or innovation they are interested in developing.

Participants will have the opportunity to win $2,500 and will meet with investors, with the potential of securing an investor for their project.

“The MARET Center, when it was first built, had a large space designated as an incubator,” said MARET Center director Russ Hopper. “We want to fill that space with bright ideas that could and should become commercial.”

Hopper said because the MARET Center is primarily an alternative energy and energy efficiency group that is the first type of business they would look for, though entries would not be limited to those areas.

“The main thing we’re looking for are entrepreneurs with ideas that are revolutionary or evolutionary and employ some sort of innovative technology,” Hopper said. “It doesn’t have to be energy based it can be IT based, software or hardware related to that.”

Hopper said an informational meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3 at the MARET Center building at Crowder’s campus.  

Those with ideas are invited to attend the informational meeting to learn more about getting involved.

Hopper said those with ideas will have until Dec. 20 to submit their information.

“Once the ideas have been submitted a selection committee will evaluate the idea, we’ll look at it for market viability, the innovation and the technological difficulty,” Hopper said.

He said once the ideas are submitted and reviewed by the committee, participants will be selected and invited to take part in the program.
The next step after participants are selected, is an entrepreneurial boot camp, where those involved will go over basics of a business plan and good business ideas.

Hopper said the boot camp would last a couple days, and then the participating entrepreneurs will be set up with mentors.

Once joined with a mentor the participants will develop a 10-15 minute presentation, which they will present to potential investors.

“We already have some investors who are interested in supporting this and might want to invest in a company,” Hopper said. “We’re going to invite as many investors as we can identify.”

Jason Stipp, chamber board president, said the actions of Crowder are benefiting the Neosho community.

“As the chamber, we really want to embrace that and continue to encourage that because that’s something that will help us, just the whole community, in the future,” Stipp said.

Hopper said the entrepreneur would be given a safe, warm spot to work at the MARET Center, as well as other forms of support from the college, including some help with the basics of starting a business, including bookkeeping, accounting and legal advice.

Hopper said Crowder College received MARET Center designation in 1992, and were given three missions with that: education and training, applied research and economic development.

With solar programs, wind tech training, and the building itself serving as a research facility, Hopper said the center is now ready to focus on the third mission.

“Now we’re going to focus big time on economic development,” Hopper said.

For more information, visit

Those wishing to enter should send a paragraph describing their business idea, the technology and target market, along with contact information to:  Crowder College, MARET Center, Entrepreneur Challenge, 601 Laclede Ave., Neosho, MO 64850; or email it to, and include “entrepreneur” in the subject line.