The AOA Startup Grant is back this fall -- with a $2,500 prize -- and the time to apply is now!

AOA Startup Grant 2018 billboard announce

The AOA Startup Grant is back for 2018!!!

This fall we'll again be awarding $2,500 in cash to help a new local project get off the ground, or take an existing small business idea to the next level. This year's contest is sponsored by SEFCU, CDPHP, and the College of Saint Rose.

The startup grant has been one of our favorite AOA events because it's also an opportunity to get a look at some of the good, early-stage ideas that are in progress around the area and shine some attention on them.

And of course, as in years past, you will get to help decide who gets the funding through the crowd vote for two of the finalists.

So we're excited to get things started.

Here's what we're looking for -- and how to apply...

Check out entries from past years before applying

Nicolas Ouimet and Adam Weber won last year's contest for their Adirondack Barnwood Salvage company. We recently checked back with them to hear how things have gone.

We've found that it's a good idea for people to review some of the entries from past years -- especially which projects made it to the finals -- before applying. Here are the previous years:

+ 2017 (finalists)
+ 2016 (finalists)
+ 2015 (finalists)
+ 2014 (finalists)
+ 2012 (finalists)
+ 2011 (finalists)


Please read these instructions carefully.

What we're looking for
Think small business (retail shop, food truck) or community effort (public art series, neighborhood program). We are not looking for straight-up charities, but rather business or community enterprises that are building toward something ongoing and self-sustaining.

Who should enter
All sorts of people. The $2,500 cash prize probably isn't going to change a lot for an established small business. But for someone with an idea or a small project that they want to take to the next phase, it could help a lot. So if that sounds like you, then you should apply.

How to enter -- please read all the details!
AOA will be accepting proposals from now through September 26 at 11:59 pm. Be sure to include the following info in this format (see how past entries are presented):

+ A short bio: Tell us a little about yourself. What have you done in the past? What led you to this project?

+ A description of your proposed project: What is it you want to do? Why do you want to do it? Why should it get funding?

+ How this funding would help: Tell us how you'd use the $2,500 startup grant to grow your idea and help you move it into the next phase. We're not looking for a dissertation -- 200-300 words are plenty.

+ At least one image: A photo, screengrab, or image of the idea as it exists now and/or of what you would like to change. Be creative. You may submit up to five images. Images should be at least 1000 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall. Have a video to go along with your application? Excellent. Please post it online somewhere (example: YouTube or Vimeo) and provide us with the link so we can embed it.

+ Your email address and phone number so we can contact you. We will not share this info publicly.

Again, studying entries from past years -- especially those projects that became finalists -- is a good guide.

Entries will be posted on AOA in the order they're received. So the sooner you enter, the more time your entry will be displayed on the site and potentially gather crowd support for the voting.

Applications should be emailed to Please enter the title of your project in the subject line. You will receive a confirmation email within 24 hours of your submission.

Startup Grant 2017 Adirondack Barnwood presentation wide

How finalists are selected

The first round
AOA will post all the projects online for the crowd to review. Online crowd voting -- from October 1 through through October 11 -- will select two finalists. The editors will pick a third.

Coaching for finalists UPDATED
All three finalists will be required to attend a one-night workshop with John Dion, associate professor of marketing at The College of Saint Rose. Finalists will meet with Dion the evening of October 16 to help them arrange their ideas and think about how to present their projects to the judges in the final round. (The date had previously been October 18.)

The final round
The three finalists will then present their ideas to the panel of judges on October 25 at the College of Saint Rose. Each finalist will get 20 minutes -- 10 minutes for a presentation, 10 minutes for Q&A -- to convince the judges to fund their project.


Shortly after the final presentations, the winner will be announced here at AOA.

Important dates

So, just to review:

September 6-September 26: Open for entries.

October 1-October 11: Crowd voting for two of the finalists.

October 16: Coaching night for finalists. UPDATED (The date had previously been October 18.)

October 25: Presentation to the judges.

Big thanks to SEFCU, CDPHP, and the College of Saint Rose for making this year's contest possible!

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