Office of Business Opportunity

OBO Press Release

First Virtual Liftoff Houston Start-Up Business Plan Competition Now Accepting Applications
Winners in Three Categories Can Receive More Than $30,000 in Cash and Prizes

July 8, 2020 -- Applications are now open for Liftoff Houston, the City of Houston’s annual business plan competition sponsored by Capital One Bank and administered by the Houston Public Library (HPL) and the Office of Business Opportunity (OBO). Winners in three categories – Service, Product and Innovation – will each receive $10,000 in seed money from Capital One Bank. This year, due to COVID-19 concerns, all Liftoff Houston events will be held in a virtual format.

The competition, which launched at 4 p.m. today and takes place through Pitch Day on Nov. 7, allows participants access to tools, resources and support that will help them develop a sound business plan for their startups. Winners will be selected during Pitch Day, after contestants present their business plans to a panel of judges. Prior to Pitch Day, participants will attend required workshops that will cover topics such as business plan basics, raising capital, marketing and information about City of Houston business resources.

New this year is the Liftoff Houston Educational Pathway, where participants who do not qualify to compete can still take advantage of the business education opportunities provided by the program. Participants who attend all required workshops under the Educational Pathway will receive a certificate of completion.

“I encourage all enterprising Houstonians to compete or participate in this program,” said the Mayor. “We are all aware of the challenges that business owners have faced during this pandemic, and the City remains steadfast in providing opportunities for entrepreneurs. We recognize that out of crisis, incredible opportunities can emerge.”

The Mayor also commended Capital One Bank for its constant support of Liftoff Houston.

“Over the past seven years, Capital One Bank has awarded more than $210,000 in start-up capital to aspiring small business owners in Houston,” the Mayor said. “Their continued generosity – especially in these unprecedented times – means a great deal to our city.”

The Director of the Houston Public Library, joined the Mayor in thanking those who have made Liftofff Houston possible. She also expressed excitement about the expanse of opportunities that this year’s virtual platform allows participants.

“I join the Mayor in thanking Capital One, the Office of Business Opportunity, HTV, the Houston Public Library team and all our partners,” the Director said. “Despite the recent challenges in both the health and social justice spaces, I believe that the most creative and innovative business ideas are imagined during trying times. I look forward to the exciting business plans that will evolve and be presented at this year’s program.”

To qualify as a contestant for Liftoff Houston, applicants must live and operate their business within the Houston city limits. The business should be for-profit, in operation for less than one year, and have verifiable revenue that does not exceed $10,000. Winners have included businesses in retail, merchandise, labor, consulting, software, hardware, market businesses, hospitality, tourism, health and fitness, education, finance, technology and logistics. Click here to see a list of past winners (link deactivated).

“Whether your business plan is based on a product, service or innovation, Liftoff Houston will provide you with invaluable information about how to master the fundamentals you need for your company to succeed. Even if you do not qualify as a contestant, we invite you to take full advantage of the program’s free Educational Pathway,” said Marsha Murray, director of the Office of Business Opportunity.

Jim Nicholas, Houston market president for Capital One Bank, said Capital One is proud to continue its longtime support of Liftoff Houston.

“We recognize that one of the most important investments Capital One Bank can make in the future of our community is an investment in small businesses,” Nicholas said. “We are pleased to partner again with The Mayor, Houston Public Library and the Office of Business Opportunity to offer this competition.”

Application deadline for Liftoff Houston is 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 10. Orientation is required for all contestants and those who would like to participate in the Educational Pathway. Click here to access the application form (link deactivated) or e-mail for more information. Also follow @LiftoffHouston on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.

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