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Entrepreneurs wanted for 2015 Innovation Challenge
innovation challenge pic
Elias Ruiz does some archery bowfishing on the Feather-Raft, his own invention that won the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge in 2014. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Stanislaus Innovation Challenge is once again looking for local entrepreneurs who want to take their great idea to the next level.

The Alliance Small Business Development Center will host six Challenge events in cities around the county in upcoming months where participants will "pitch" their business ideas to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs. The best proposal of each of the local competitions will then compete in a final round for the chance to take home cash and professional services to help them further develop their concept.

The 2015 Challenge will culminate in a “Money Round” competition between each of the six local event winners on Dec. 10 in Modesto. The first and second place winners of the final competition will share in $5,000 in cash and over $3,000 in professional services from an attorney, certified public accountant, graphics designer and a marketing firm to help them turn their idea into a reality. The final winners will also be entered into the eight-county Regional San Joaquin Entrepreneur’s Challenge to be held in Stockton in 2016 for a chance to win a share of $24,000 in cash and services. 

Dutcher Middle School teacher by day and Feather Raft inventor by night, Elias Ruiz, took home the grand price of $2,500 in December 2014, as the winner of the first annual Stanislaus County Innovation Challenge.

“I think we had a lot of good things in our favor,” said Ruiz in December, noting that getting intellectual property rights and patents in order for the Feather-Raft over the past two years had proved beneficial. “I was trying to get the legal foundation set rather than just cranking out products.”

Ruiz said he was going to use the prize money to purchase some CAD (computer-aided-design) drawings of universal parts that will reduce the labor on his part and expedite creation of the rafts.

The first 2015 Innovation Challenge event will be held on Aug. 6 at the Kirk Lindsey Center at 1020 10th St., Suite 102 in Modesto. Deadline for submitting an application for the Modesto competition is 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. Additional events will be held in Patterson on Aug. 27, Riverbank on Sept. 17, Ceres on Oct. 8, Oakdale on Oct. 29 and Turlock on Nov. 19.

Stanislaus County residents, college students and business owners are eligible to apply to enter the Challenge. Applications are available to download at Applicants whose ideas best meet the competition criteria will be invited to pitch their idea to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs at one or more of the six local competitions.

To download an application and view deadlines for each of the six local events, visit or call the Alliance SBDC at 209.567.4910 for more information about the 2015 Stanislaus Innovation Challenge.