MCBI (now Spark Five Sixty) hosts first Startup Weekend Zanesville

Elizabeth Harper
September 29, 2017

TechGROWTH Ohio regional partner Muskingum County Business Incubator (MCBI) recently held their inaugural Startup Weekend Zanesville at Zane State College on Aug. 24-26, 2017. Coinciding with the event was MCBI’s announcement that the organization changed its name and is now called Spark Five Sixty.

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event in which participants create and develop a startup business. After sharing their ideas, participants vote on the best concepts, then form teams to develop the beginnings of a business plan for each potential startup. At the end of the weekend, teams pitch their businesses and judges vote on the best one based on factors including viability and marketability.

The event is open to students and community members alike, and participants choose to attend for a myriad of reasons. Some want to learn more about the entrepreneurial process. Some come with business ideas they’ve had for years and want to develop further. Others attend to see what the event is really about.

Though some participants come with a specific idea they want to make a reality, the event gives participants “a concentrated experience in the entrepreneurial process and often, a sincere excitement about that process,” said Faith Knutsen, Director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Knutsen, who has worked in venture development for the Voinovich School for approximately 10 years, was one of the judges for the Zanesville competition. She enjoys hearing about new ideas and problem solutions, especially those that address local and regional issues. When judging, she looks for teams that have worked well together and created a cohesive plan for their business.

Two other TechGROWTH Ohio employees— Executive-in-Residence Michele Migliuolo and Director John Glazer— helped coach the teams through the process and prepare them for the final competition. Glazer helped each team create a business model and reach out to potential customers for feedback.

“In the process of interacting, people discover things that they hadn’t thought of before that make a difference in the business and venture that they’re creating,” Glazer said.

Working with coaches who have significant entrepreneurial experience allows participants to develop their skills and create a better presentation. Glazer has spent almost 10 years working at the Voinovich School and founded several startups of his own.

Migliuolo, on the other hand, specializes in critiquing pitches. Drawing on 25 years of executive experience, he helped teams develop presentations using strong communication skills to deliver a coherent message.

The goal, said Migliuolo, is for participants “to have performed enough work preparing the business to know whether they are going to move forward with the business or not. And if they want to move forward with the business, having the next steps identified.”

Startup Weekend also gives participants and volunteers alike the chance to network and get a sense of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. It raises awareness of the support and services the entrepreneurial community can provide to those who need it.

Next up is Startup Weekend Athens, which will take place Oct. 13-15 at the Innovation Center, located at 340 W. State St. For more information or to register for the event click here