Ben Franklin Giving Happy Valley Innovators a Boost with $50k Grand Prize


Ben Franklin Technology Partners is looking for innovators with big ideas in Happy Valley, Clarion, Clearfield, and Jefferson Counties — and the winner takes home $50,000.

“If you are developing or crafting a product, process or innovation related to the maker economy, outdoors and recreation, forest products, manufacturing or technology, you need to apply for the Big Idea Contest,” says Elizabeth Wilson, director of marketing and communications for Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

Winning the grand prize of up to $50,000 will go a long way in helping further develop a BIG IDEA and infuse a new startup with much-needed cash. But, the pitch experience that Ben Franklin offers, along with the business training and connections, are as valuable as the money.

“Ben Franklin’s $50,000 BIG IDEA contests provide a fun, no-risk opportunity for people who have innovative ideas to ‘dip their toe’ in the startup world,” Wilson says. “Since 2004, more than 200 finalists have competed for cash prizes.”

Phospholutions was a Big Idea winner in 2018, a boost that CEO Hunter Swisher says was integral to the company’s early success. 

The program is an effective tool for prospective entrepreneurs to make themselves visible to Ben Franklin and other entrepreneurial development service partners. Whether or not an applicant wins a cash prize, they all benefit from the mentoring, pitch guidance, and networking.

Innovation Park-based Phospholutions won the Big Idea contest in 2018. The sustainable fertilizer company has recently grown from seven to 20 employees and raised $10.3 million in private equity funding to support expansion to global markets. CEO Hunter Swisher says Ben Franklin’s support — including the Big Idea contest — has been integral to the company’s success. 

“The funding provided the resources to execute on that first set of milestones often deemed too risky for venture investment. Through the resources and early-stage funding provided by Ben Franklin, we were able to attract more institutional capital from outside Pennsylvania,” Swisher says. “It is tough to say what was the most important part of working with Ben Franklin — the resources like human resources and accounting support, market research, TechCelerator, the licensing support, the funding, second stage capital networks — all of these were very important.”

Visit for contest rules, FAQ, and to see the easy application process. For more information, contact Annie Hughes/717-948-4301 or or Liz Wilson/814-898-6541 or


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