The first batch of ideas have already been submitted in Crowder College and the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce's joint Entrepreneur Challenge, which launched last month.

Russ Hopper, director of Crowder's MARET Center, said he has received five idea proposals for the challenge so far.

The entrepreneurial contest is open to all who have an invention or innovation they are interested in developing.

As the MARET Center is primarily focused on alternative energy and energy efficiency, Hopper said ideas related to that are encouraged but not required.

The center was built with a large space designed as an incubator.

"We want to fill that space with bright ideas that could and should become commercial," Hopper said when first introducing the challenge on Sept. 19.

Participants will also take part in an entrepreneurial boot camp, will have the chance to win a $2,500 prize and could meet

with investors, with the potential of securing an investor for their project.

A public informational meeting for those interested in participating in the challenge was held Thursday evening at the MARET Center.

While turnout was low, Hopper said he is not discouraged, as several others have already shown interest in the project.
"We've had five people that came in after the first announcement we did," Hopper said. "And we're going to continue to advertise the challenge for the next couple of months and hopefully we'll be able to have another one of these."

Hopper emphasized that the challenge is not limited to just Neosho or to college students.

"We've actually got a program called the Missouri Clean Energy Challenge that's focused specifically on college students, but we're looking for anybody in the area for this," Hopper said.

To participate, interested individuals are asked to submit a paragraph explaining their idea before Dec. 20.

After that deadline, Hopper said the selection committee will evaluate the ideas based on the innovation, the technological difficulty and look at it for market viability.

The committee will then notify those participants whose ideas have been selected to move forward through the remainder of the challenge, including the entrepreneurial boot camp, and presentation to investors.

Hopper said of the ideas received so far, one has come from a Crowder College student, while others have been submitted by community members.

"Three of them are very viable," Hopper said of the submissions. "Two we'll have to see where they're headed with it before we go much further."

Crowder College's MARET Center and the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce first announced plans for the entrepreneurial contest Sept. 19 at the chamber's quarterly luncheon.

Gib Garrow, the chamber's economic development director, said Thursday that the Chamber is excited to partner with Crowder College.

"This is another way of creating jobs and investment," Garrow said. "It's an exciting trend that's basically sweeping the nation. There's a lot of entrepreneurial organizations in Kansas City and different places, I think we're probably one of the first in a small market."

Garrow said there are likely several people in the area looking for someone to help coach them through the process of pursuing their idea, and said for the local chamber it's about more than maintaining and recruiting industry, that they are also excited to help grow them from within.

"When you think about industry, any business started with somebody," Garrow said.

Crowder College student Lloyd Davis attended Thursday evening's informational session, and said he plans to submit his own idea to the contest soon.

"I'm trying to figure out how I want to present it," Davis said.

Davis, who studies solar, biofuel processing, water treatment and wind at Crowder, said he thinks the entrepreneur challenge is a great opportunity.

"It's going to show people who have an idea how to actually put it into practice," Davis said. "To look at if it's viable and how to use it."

Hopper said the deadline to submit ideas for the challenge is Dec. 20.

Ideas can be submitted by emailing, with "entrepreneur" in the subject line, or by mailing a hard copy of the idea to Crowder College, MARET Center, Entrepreneur Challenge, 601 Laclede Ave., Neosho, MO 64850.

For more information on the challenge, visit