Deadline approaching – Apply by April 18 deadline for 2024 BIG IDEA Contest

Attention innovators in Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Potter, and Tioga Counties, PA: Apply now for a chance to win $50,000 for your groundbreaking idea! The deadline for the 2024 BIG IDEA Contest is fast approaching, on April 18, 2024, at

The BIG IDEA Contest, presented by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA in partnership with local business development organizations, is on the lookout for individuals with ideas in the maker economy, outdoors and recreation, forest products, manufacturing, or technology. Their innovative concepts could potentially win them up to $50,000 to help launch their BIG IDEA into the marketplace.

“We’ve witnessed a remarkable spectrum of innovations throughout the past several years of the BIG IDEA contest,” remarks Cathy Von Birgelen, Executive Director of The Ben Franklin Learning Center. “From mushroom farming ventures to software solutions designed for local governance, and even a coffee enterprise dedicated to supporting the blind community—each iteration of the BIG IDEA contest offers entrepreneurs an incredible platform to showcase their innovations, potentially securing the resources needed to transform their ideas into reality.”

Finalists will collaborate with business experts and community partners to craft a compelling pitch deck for presentation at the BIG IDEA Contest finale, where they’ll address a live audience and panel of judges. These judges will allocate $50,000 in prize money, and finalists will also have the chance to compete for a $2,500 People’s Choice Award.

“Even if you have an idea that’s still in progress, we encourage you to fill out the application,” advises LaKeshia Knarr, Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Director at PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship. “We’re here to assist you in refining your idea and guiding you towards success in the contest.”

Applications are due April 18, 2024 at 


Informational webinar

An informational webinar was held on January 24, explaining how to apply, introducing the many partners involved and the resources they can provide, and offering tips for the best chance at becoming a finalist. Watch the webinar recording below.


Why should you apply?

  • Dive into a community of like-minded creators and thinkers, ready to amplify your BIG IDEA.
  • The winner stands to receive up to $50,000 in cash – a vital resource to propel your BIG IDEA to new heights.
  • Beyond the cash prize, gain invaluable pitch experience, and business training, and forge connections that last a lifetime.

The winner will receive:

  • Up to $50,000 in cash.
  • A chance to win an additional $2,500 in the People’s Choice Award.
  • An opportunity to pitch the business concept for a $10,000 Seed Grant from Ben Franklin.
  • A guaranteed spot in a business accelerator program offered by either Ben Franklin or Penn State’s LaunchBox network.
  • Business mentoring and support by Ben Franklin’s Transformation Business Services Network.

You qualify to apply if:

  • Your business is located in Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Potter, or Tioga County, PA.
  • You have not previously received Ben Franklin funding or a cash prize from either a BIG IDEA Contest or a TechCelerator program.
  • You plan to commercialize your innovation.
  • You do not have more than $1,000,000 in annual sales revenue (as an established business).

Visit for contest rules, FAQ, and to apply.

Special thanks to sponsors The Appalachian Regional Commission, Northwest Bank, Penn State Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), and the Small Business Development Centers of Clarion University, Gannon University, and Penn State.


About the BIG IDEA Contests: Since the start of the BIG IDEA contests, more than $2 million in cash prizes have been awarded throughout Ben Franklin’s 32-county footprint in central and northern Pennsylvania. The contest offers start-ups and entrepreneurs some much-needed seed funding, as well as business training, pitch experience, and industry contacts – often more valuable than the prize money itself. 

About Ben Franklin Technology Partners: The largest seed investor in the region, Ben Franklin Technology Partners (an initiative of the PA Department of Community & Economic Development and funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority) has been providing investment capital, business support services, and operational assistance to emerging tech-startups and small manufacturers for nearly 40 years. Learn more at   

For media inquiries, please contact Karly Scala at [email protected] 

About the PA Wilds: The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region and its 2+ million acres of public lands as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, attract investment, retain population and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of more than 575 place-based businesses and organizations, and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit To learn more about the WCO, visit Explore the PA Wilds at Find regionally made products at

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