Great Lakes Venture Quest (GLVQ) is a non-profit organization that was formed in 2000 to build on the knowledge and experience in Michigan to educate and support entrepreneurs in the creation and growth of successful technology-based business in the state. GLVQ strives in uniting the entrepreneurial community and building the critical mass of technology, talent and capital necessary to start high-tech enterprises. It does this by providing experienced coaches who have run their own businesses as well as advise from investors. Each entrant is assigned a team of experts for this purpose.
Eiler began working with GLVQ for its second annual Business Plan Competition in 2001-2002. The purpose of the competition is to give participants an educational boost that helps their sound ideas become business models that lead to successful businesses. Teams participating in the competition have to have at least one member who resides, works, or attends school in Michigan. To ensure that prize winners are dispersed throughout Michigan, the competition is broken into three regions: Eastern, Western and Northern Michigan. The competition has two phases with the first phase starting in October and ending in December and the second phase beginning in January and ending in March. The GLVQ showcases the state’s leading-edge technological excellence. Its aim is to prove that there’s no better place to grow a high-tech company than in Michigan.
GLVQ needed to build awareness of its competition throughout the state of Michigan. This competition is intended to create an entrepreneurial buzz about Michigan, which will convince start-ups to build businesses here, attract and retain managerial talent, and establish the Great Lakes state as a hotbed of entrepreneurship. Venture Quest also aims to generate several successful new businesses each year. GLVQ needed to reach these targeted audiences to participate in the competition as well as generate buzz around the competition with key media within the state of Michigan.
Eiler first began by revamping the brochure by using a lighthouse – a kind of beacon for new businesses – as its symbol. The brochure described how the GLVQ was like a lighthouse in that it provides the needed resources and its many volunteers help steer new entrepreneurs towards greater knowledge and away from potential mistakes on their journey. Media across the state were constantly pitched throughout the competition. Media included radio and TV stations, online publications and regional newspapers. University publications were also targeted as a means to generate interest among students, faculty and administrators. Media were personally invited to attend the final awards ceremony. News releases were sent out during the competition to keep the media and public abreast of progress.
By the time the competition ended, Eiler had generated significant buzz across the state about the GLVQ. Regional papers in Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Flint, Battle Creek and Traverse City, as well as Detroit and Grand Rapids picked up on the press releases and wrote about the GLVQ and participants in various areas. During the competition, word spread among many online publications, including The Great Lakes IT Report , DallasNews.com, Crain’s Detroit.com, Michigan Technology News, and Silicon Valley Business Ink. WWJ’s Digital Detroit featured GLVQ participant’s business plan pitches on its station as well as interviewed the GLVQ chairpersons Bob Herdoiza and David Parsigian. Additional GLVQ chairpersons Paul Kirsch and Gary Krause were interviewed on Michigan Talk Radio and the Michigan Business Beat aired segments of the nine winners throughout December on stations across the state. By generating this type of coverage, GLVQ was able to build awareness of the competition as well as increase its visibility within the state as a competition dedicated to educating and supporting entrepreneurs in the creation and growth of successful technology-based businesses in Michigan.