You could win $50,000 toward your BIG IDEA; info session planned for March 23

Esperanzo “Espo” Wilcox, owner of PA Mushroom Company, who was one of the PA Wilds BIG IDEA Contest winners in 2022.

Do you have a big idea or are you crafting a product, process or innovation related to the maker economy, outdoors and recreation, forest products, manufacturing or technology? Are you located in Cameron, Elk, Forest, McKean or Warren County? 

If you answered yes to these two questions, apply to the BIG IDEA Contest by April 18 for a chance to win up to $50,000 to help you grow your idea.  

In partnership with the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Ben Franklin Technology Partners is looking to invest in innovators with big ideas.  Scalable business models and ideas are prioritized. Innovators do not need to have a registered business to apply but should have intent to do business in Pennsylvania. In addition to the cash prize, the pitch experience, business training and contacts made are just as valuable.

“Definitely, the process would have been beneficial to our business regardless of winning the contest,” said Esperanzo “Espo” Wilcox, owner of PA Mushroom Company, who was one of two winners that split the grand prize in 2022. “If you’re an entrepreneur or someone that has a business and you’re thinking about entering into the BIG IDEA Contest, you definitely want to do it. You’ll come away with a lot more than you put into it.”

There are no equity requirements or fees for participants to enter or win.

Visit to apply. Application deadline is April 18, 2023.



An information session is planned on March 23 from 3-5 p.m. at the Women’s Club of Warren County, 310 Market Street, Warren. Join Ben Franklin staff and partners for light refreshments and to find answers related to entrepreneurship, startups and funding. Leave with knowledge on how to plan for, pitch in and win the PA Wilds BIG IDEA Contest. Registration is not necessary.



Following the application period, Ben Franklin Technology Partners will review all the submissions and a slate of 6-8 finalists are typically selected to move on to the final pitch competition.

Finalists receive additional one-on-one and cohort support leading up to the pitch competition, where each of the finalists will have 5 minutes to provide an overview of their innovation and why it is a good investment. A panel of judges will ask questions. Following all pitches, the judges will assemble to select a winner, and the winner will be announced the same day. In addition to the grand prize, the public is able to vote for a People’s Choice Award winner who will receive a $2,500 prize.

Finalists are required to attend the program’s pitch training program, complete an investment summary, share a social media teaser related to the People’s Choice Award, complete a one-on-one coaching session and make a final pitch at the conclusion event. 

In addition to the financial award received by the contest winner, applicants and finalists receive feedback, technical assistance and referrals from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners team and other partner organizations involved in the program, including PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, PennTAP, the Small Business Development Centers and more. 

While the 2023 BIG IDEA Contest is focused on Cameron, Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren counties, the 2024 contest will accept applications from Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Potter and Tioga counties.     


About the BIG IDEA Contests: Since the start of the BIG IDEA contests, more than $3 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 our 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   


About PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship: 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 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 over 300 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

For more information, contact Karly Warner at [email protected].

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