Pitch for a chance to win money to start or grow your business

2024 RISE Business Pitch Competition


Wednesday, June 26, 2024

2:00 – 5:30PM

South Boston, VA – Southern Virginia Higher Education Center

2024 Competition Awards

The RISE Business Pitch Competition will award over $10,000 in funding to entrepreneurs who pitch their ideas to startup a new venture or scale-up their existing business.

Startup Category - for New Businesses 

  • Multiple awards, ranging from $500 to $1,000 per award

Scale-Up Category - for Existing Businesses 

  • 1st Place: $5,000
  • 2nd Place: $2,500
  • 3rd Place: $1,000

In addition to the financial awards described above, entrepreneurs who participate in this exciting program will gain knowledge capital and social capital to support their entrepreneurial journeys.

Event hosts and sponsors: This event is hosted by RISE Collaborative program partners including SOVA Innovation Hub, Longwood Small Business Development Center, Southern Virginia Higher Education Cetner, GO Virginia Region 3, and event sponsors. To become a RISE Collaborative sponsor, please complete the online sponsor form and a prefilled form will be sent to you via Adobe Sign for your signature.

Attend the Pitch Competition

Wednesday, June 26, 2024


Check-In Begins
Program & Pitches
Networking and Entrepreneur & Resource Showcase

SVHEC Innovation Center
605 Seymour Drive, South Boston, VA 24592

Interested in being included in an entrepreneur showcase at this event?

Please complete this form to confirm your interest in having your business included in the Entrepreneur Showcase at the RISE Business Pitch Competition.

Attend the Awards Event

Thursday, June 27, 2024

6pm-7pm on Zoom


Applications Due – Friday, May 10, 2024

Submit your application, which includes a video pitch (90 seconds maximum), business plan (including a 1-page Executive Summary), and Financial Projections Worksheet.

Notification to Pitch – Wednesday, June 12, 2024

If selected to advance, you will be notified that you will be moving forward to pitch your idea or business by June 12.

Celebration & Pitch Competition – Wednesday, June 26, 2024 in South Boston, VA

Pitch your business to an audience of judges, potential investors, and community members. Each competitor will have 5 minutes to pitch and 5 minutes to receive questions from the judges. Slides are encouraged.

Where:  Southern Virginia Higher Education Center Innovation Center – 605 Seymour Drive, South Boston, VA

Celebration & Awards Announcement – Thursday, June 27, 2024 on Zoom

Award winners will be announced at a virtual event.

Award Categories

Entrepreneurs will compete in one of two categories: Startup or Scale Up.

Startup Category

The Startup category includes pitches from entrepreneurs with startup ideas and early-stage businesses that are very early in their process of becoming established and launching. 

Scale Up Category

The Scale Up category includes existing businesses that have demonstrated a concept that would scale up their business. Each of the businesses that pitch in this category are already established with customer relationships, suppliers, and marketing strategies. 

Additional awards include:

SOVA Female Founders Fund

Established in 2023 with an initial gift from Ilsa Loeser of Letterpress Communications, the SOVA Female Founders Fund for Women-Owned Businesses is intended to provide additional support and encouragement to female entrepreneurs demonstrating perseverance in pursuing their vision.  The minimum award amount is $250. To qualify, businesses must be at least 51% owned by a woman, as self-reported. Priority will be given to qualified entrepreneurs who demonstrate grit defined as the “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” and the ability to overcome obstacles. Businesses competing in the Startup or Scale Up categories may win this award, whether or not they also win a Startup or Scale Up award.

Rising Star Award

Established in 2023 to celebrate the passion and potential of young entrepreneurs, the Rising Star Award intends to encourage and empower young people to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and showcase their innovative ideas. The minimum award amount is $250. To qualify, the businesses must be at least 51% owned by a person age 40 or younger at the time of application. In the event that the young entrepreneur is under age 18, the applicant team must demonstrate the young person’s substantial role as a founder of the business and the young person must compete with a business team member who is age 18 or older. 

 To become an event sponsor, please complete and return the sponsorship form by June 20, 2024.

2024 Application Criteria for Eligibility, Selection, and Evaluation

Eligible Applicants must meet all criteria listed below: 

1. Age: Individuals who are at least the age of eighteen (18) are eligible to apply. Individuals under the age of 18 may qualify, but an adult representative of the business must also be part of the application/pitch team and a parent or guardian must be present for all correspondence, interactions, and events.

2. Business Stage and Location: Individuals/Owners of Startup and Existing Businesses (including corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, and other legal entities) must currently be registered to do business OR plan to register to do business in the Commonwealth of Virginia and must have an operating presence in at least one of the following Virginia localities (GO Virginia Region 3): Counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Halifax, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward; Cities of Danville, Martinsville.

    • If you are not currently operating in GO Virginia Region 3 (startups or existing businesses growing or scaling into the region), your application must demonstrate the location of the business will be in the region and on what timeline. This information should be included in your business plan that you upload as part of your application.

3. Business Size: Individuals/Owners of Startup and Existing Businesses (including corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, and other legal entities) must employ no more than 50 people.  With your application, please provide breakdown of your employees (full-time, part-time, contract workers, etc.), if applicable.  

4. Business Training: Individuals or at least one representative of an Organization must have completed the RISE Business Bootcamp – OR – must demonstrate completion of a similar entrepreneurship training program.

5. Attendance at the Pitch Event: Applicants must have availability to participate in-person at the Pitch Competition on June 26, 2024 in South Boston, Virginia.

    • This competition is designed to culminate in the in-person event. If this is the one eligibility criterion that is not met, then the applicant may include in their application a written request to pitch remotely. This request will be considered if it is determined that all other criteria are met. 

6. Prior Year Applicants:  Prior year award winners are not eligible to apply with the same business. Prior year competitors who pitched but did not win an award are eligible to apply for the competition again. Prior year applicants who applied but were not selected to pitch are eligible to apply again.

7. Ongoing Communication: Applicants must have a willingness to partner with RISE Collaborative by communicating regularly about your business progress for at least 12 months following the event. Pitch Competition winners are required to meet either in person or virtually once a quarter with a RISE Collaborative representative.

8. Media Release: Applicants must complete a media release form agreeing to allow RISE Collaborative and its partners to include pictures and/or videos of you on their websites, social media pages, print material, and other marketing items to promote the RISE Business Pitch Competition and for media at the competition. Download media release form

9. Local and Regional Economic Impact: Preference will be given to businesses that have the potential for local and regional economic impact through creation of quality-paying jobs and Traded Sector, Target Industry growth.

    • Traded Sectors are industries that sell their goods and services to customers outside of the region where they are located. Businesses in these industries bring new money into the local economy.
    • Target Industries for our region include healthcare, information and communication technology (ICT), professional services, food processing, energy sector, advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, forestry, agriculture, and controlled-environment agriculture (CEA).
    • Main Street and Lifestyle Businesses: Applications will be considered from Main Street or lifestyle businesses that do not meet the Traded Sector and/or Target Industry definitions described above. These businesses still need to demonstrate their impact on the local and regional economies. For example, this may be through job creation, quality of life improvements for the community, and/or contributing to placemaking, which in turn supports talent attraction and retention for Traded Sector, Target Industry growth. 
    • NAICS Code: The application will ask you to include the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code that best describes your business. This is not something you need to register for. If you do not know your NAICS code, you can look it up on the Census.gov/naics website.

10. Completion of Application: Applicants must submit a completed application by the application due date.  The application is an online form on the F6S platform. Required attachments include:

    • Pitch Video (90 seconds maximum. In this video, please explain how your Startup or Scale-Up solves a problem, who your customers are, and what types/amount of capital your business needs to grow. A video guide is provided below.)
    • Business Plan Document (At a minimum, please include a 1 page Executive Summary that aligns with your Pitch Video. You can choose to submit a Business Plan up to Total 10 pages maximum. A business plan guide is provided below.)  
    • Financial Projections Worksheet (Include Startup and Expansion Costs, Sources & Uses of Funds, Cash Flow Projections. A template is provided below.)

If you need assistance with preparing your application materials, we recommend consulting with your advisor at the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Application Selection and Evaluation

1. Applications will be reviewed by the event administration team to confirm all eligibility criteria are met, including completeness of application.  Applicants with incomplete or late applications will not be eligible to pitch.

2. Eligible, completed applications will be evaluated by the application review team, using a uniform scoring rubric, based on the following categories:

    • Concept Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability: How is the business model able to provide a solution that is desirable (it meets a customer need); is feasible (it builds on your operational abilities and assets); and is viable (it is sustainable by generating a profit)? Did the application demonstrate this thoroughly through numbers and facts?
    • Marketability: How will/does the product or service appeal to customers? How will/are sales generated? How is the competitive advantage defined?
    • Financial Feasibility and Viability: How will the startup or business expansion be able to generate the required cash flow to fulfill ongoing operational costs and debt repayments?  Do the financial projections reflect the sources and uses of funds, and the resources needed for the startup or business expansion?
    • Potential Economic Impact: How is the startup or business expansion expected to benefit the Local Community and Regional Economy in Southern Virginia?
    • Clarity and Comprehensiveness: Is the application information concise, to the point, and well organized? Did the applicant cover all aspects of the business plan? Did they demonstrate a good understanding of the market and knowledge of how operation of the business will work?

3. If selected to compete in the Pitch Competition, the panel of judges will evaluate your application materials using the same categories listed above, and they will evaluate the quality of your pitch presentation on the day of the event. The evaluation of your pitch presentation will include:

    • Professionalism and Preparation: Was the presentation delivered appropriately, and was the presenter(s) well prepared? 
    • WOW Factor: Was the presentation memorable and unique? Did the presenter(s) demonstrate the marketability and feasibility of the proposed startup or business expansion thoroughly through numbers and facts?
    • Answering Questions: Was the presenter(s) able to answer the questions sufficiently?

4. All applications and supporting materials will be confidential to the application review team and judges for the RISE Business Pitch Competition. The Pitch Event itself will be open to the public.

5. Any issue not addressed in the event guidelines will be decided by the RISE Pitch Competition Committee. The pitch competition committee’s decision is final.

If you have questions about the application elgibilty criteria, selection, or evaluation, please do not hesitate to contact the RISE Pitch Competition Committee at hello@sovarise.com.

Ready to Apply?

We welcome entrepreneurs from across Southern Virginia to apply to compete in the 2nd annual RISE Business Pitch Competition. Before you begin your application, please review our application criteria. If you have questions, please contact us at hello@sovarise.com.

Your Business Plan should include at minimum a 1-page Executive Summary that introduces your business and the concept you are pitching. A full-length business plan is not required. To view an example of an executive summary, click here.

You can choose to include a longer Business Plan; the total length should be no more than 10 pages maximum, with size 11 font and 1″ margins. It is ok to include images and data visuals. We recommend using the Business Plan Guide which was created referencing the business plan guide provided by SCORE, an entrepreneur support organization.

Do you need help developing your business plan? Connect with a Longwood SBDC consultant.

The Comprehensive Financial Worksheet is a resource that you can customize for your business. If you do not have access to Microsoft Excel, we recommend using the free version of Google Sheets.

Do you need help creating your financial projections? Connect with a Longwood SBDC consultant

The Pitch Video should be 90 seconds or less. Think of this as a video version of the Executive Summary from your Business Plan.

The Application is online using F6S, a digital platform for entrepreneurs. If you have not already done so, you will need to create an account on F6S and setup your company profile before you begin the online application form. Within the online application form, you will be asked to upload the required attachments: Business Plan Document, Financial Projections, and Video Pitch.

Days left to apply for the 2024 RISE Business Pitch Competition








Recap of the 2023 RISE Business Pitch Competition

The 2023 RISE Business Pitch Competition awarded $18,500 in prize funds to 8 businesses.