IDEA Competition names its winners!

Megan Pederson, of Fertile, is the overall winner of this season’s competition. She won $10,000 in cash for her idea, Community Voice, a mobile app intended to serve communities by increasing community engagement, increasing transparency among community leaders, and connecting people to services.

Also as part of her prize package, Pederson was named the 2022 Minnesota Cup semifinalist for Northwest Minnesota and will have the option of competing in that state-wide competition as well. Minnesota Cup is a public-private partnership that supports Minnesota entrepreneurs through an annual competition that connects participants with education, mentorship, and support to launch and accelerate their new ventures.

Kenna, Chloe, and Rocky Cook, of Bemidji, won $4,000 in cash and an in-kind award from Evolve Creative that provides up to $2,500 in marketing services. The trio’s idea expands on their development and sale of dryer balls from alpaca fibers and organic soil enhancers from alpaca manure. The whole family operates Cook Family Farm, but this specific venture is driven by Kenna, 18, Chloe, 16, and Rocky, 15.

Merlin Olson, of Lengby, won $1,000 in cash, as well as in-kind awards. His idea for the Motor-grader Debris Blower involves a debris blower that can be attached to a road grader, allowing debris to be quickly and easily cleared from roadways.

His in-kind awards include:

  • $5,000 worth of engineering and technical writing services from LVI Supply
  • $5,000 worth of patent and trademark legal services through HSML Law in Minneapolis
  • $5,000 worth of services through IDEA Works for general consulting, including advanced business planning, facility acquisition, and vendor selection

To date, $465,000 has
been awarded in cash!


$50,000 has been awarded
via in-kind awards!

What is the IDEA Competition?

The IDEA Competition was designed for one purpose — to grow the economy of Northwest Minnesota by outfitting the next generation of homegrown innovators for success in the global marketplace. To accomplish its purpose, the program identifies the most promising ideas and entrepreneurs through a competitive process, awards cash to winners, and provides intensive follow-up assistance. Since inception, more than $451,500 has been awarded in cash and $32,500 in-kind awards to help these entrepreneurs in commercializing their ideas.

IDEA Competition participants receive:
  • Valuable tools and business development resources
  • A business coach
  • Open access to all IDEA labs
  • A chance to present your business idea to potential investors and business leaders
  • A chance to win one of our $10,000 cash prizes to get your business moving
  • A chance to win valuable professional services such as accounting, legal, and marketing
  • A chance to win a spot as a semifinalist in the Minnesota Cup
Judging Criteria:

Business opportunity: A strong business opportunity is one which effectively addresses a real customer need or problem and which has a strong likelihood of becoming profitable.

Business model: a well-articulated business model clearly explains how the business will generate revenue, i.e., how customer transactions will occur.

Strength of entrepreneur team: a strong entrepreneur team is one in which key leaders and advisors are available (or identified subject to financing) to fill key positions to execute the operations plan.

Strength of financials: strong financials are based on solid assumptions, and show a clear path to revenue, and ultimately, profitability.

Strength of marketing plan: a strong marketing plan includes strategy founded on good market research, shows understanding of the target customer, identifies who will be responsible for what, and is tied to timelines.

Meet the 2020-2021 IDEA Competition Winner!

Secure & Safe Shower Zone – Kelly Van Ert

The winner of the competition was Kelly Van Ert of Bemidji, whose concept for the Secure & Safe Shower Zone was awarded a $7,500 cash prize, a $5,000 in-kind award of engineering and technical writing services from LVI, and a $5,000 in-kind award with HSML Law in Minneapolis for patent and trademark legal services.

The Secure & Safe Shower Zone is a shower system consisting of two main components: magnetic gripped shower sleeves that can be placed around and adjusted to fit a variety of commonly used shower items such as, handheld shower heads, bottles of shampoo, conditioners, and body washes. The second element of this shower system includes an adjustable large magnetic board that can be attached anywhere on a shower wall. This allows users to easily place and replace shower items anywhere on their board within convenient reach.

Meet the 2020-2021 IDEA Competition Runners-Up!

AMPLE Engineering & Design

Andy Olson

Andy Olson, of St. Hilaire, received a $5,000 in-kind award from IDEA Works for general consulting, including advanced business planning, facility acquisition, and vendor selection. His concept of an engineering firm offering consultation and testing through contracted work expands on his initial idea for a mobile wood processor. An engineer with 20 years’ experience, Olson developed a prototype for the wood processor that can lift logs, transfer them down a conveyor, and cut and split the logs. The processor can be pulled behind an ATV. It is aimed at those who use wood-burning as primary or secondary heat sources, and greatly reduces the physical strain from lifting logs and splitting wood.

Indigenous Origins

Ron Turney

Ron Turney received a $2,500 cash award toward the development of Indigenous Origins, a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform for Indigenous artists, Native-owned small businesses, and Tribal-owned businesses that enables them to start an e-commerce store at no cost while joining a marketplace with truly authentic Indigenous arts, goods, and services.

Lost Lamb Loomery

Bobbie Davis

Bobbie Davis, of Bemidji, was awarded $1,000 in cash and a $2,500 in-kind award from Evolve Creative, for an Awareness Campaign marketing package for her concept of Lost Lamb Loomery, a resource for those beginning to explore the world of fiber arts.
Davis, along with her husband, Dave Robertson, aims to offer easy-to-assemble and high-quality wooden looms and spinning wheel kits while also offering online training curriculum. Together, they want their concept to shepherd newcomers into and through the world of fiber arts.


John Repko

For his concept of Rvizion, a collaborative web search product that empowers users with knowledge to build expertise, Repko was named the 2021 Minnesota Cup semifinalist for Northwest Minnesota.
Unlike traditional search engines, Rvizion sifts through search engines, news sources, medical journals and clinical trials to provide users the best, most applicable information needed in some of life’s greatest challenges. By reading, rating, and summarizing articles, and also providing definitions, Rvizion is able to provide the most applicable information to empower users to build understanding and wisdom.

Past Winners
  • Secure & Safe Shower Zone – Kelly Van Ert
  • AMPLE Engineering & Design – Andy Olson
  • Indigenous Origins – Ron Turney
  • Lost Lamb Loomery – Bobbie Davis
  • Rvizion – John Repko
  • Muskox
  • Moonlit Analytics
  • Table for 7
  • F & H Design
1st Place: ELITE Additive
2nd Place: Ward Enterprises
3rd Place: D3D

  • Caroline Hayden LLC
  • Real Good Bath and Body
  • Safe-D-Transfer
  • Bolton Bees
  • DeanUltraThinRetainer
  • Stittsworth Meats
  • Far North Spirits
  • Aircorps Aviation
  • LitWeaver Inc.
  • Eickhof Columbaria Inc.
  • Wagner Malting & Brewing Inc.
  • Addy-Olly, LLC
  • CR Data Solutions
  • Reel Deal
  • Spot-Knot
  • Stand Alone Game Calls
  • Lamplighter Hockey
  • Hubmaster
  • The Sidekick
  • Slot-Rail Fence
  • Varimax Evaporator
  • Eleven Hockey
  • LaValley Industries
  • Grand Steer – Turn@bout
  • Craft Night Out
  • EquipAll Grapple/Hoe
  • LaValley Industries
  • Insect Inferno
  • Highway My Way
  • Trophy Head Shot
  • MacAttach Inc
  • Ultralight Soaring Aviation
  • IceHogger, Inc.
  • xTreme DnA
  • Forte Keyboard Company LLC
How do I enter?
  1.  Application Step 1 – Basic personal and idea information: Tell us about yourself and your idea.
  2.  Application Step 2 – Business Plan, if you have one completed.
    We will want an Executive Summary, Description of Product/Service, Market Size/Potential/Opportunity, Sales and Marketing Plan, Operating/Development Plan, and Financials

    • PLEASE NOTE: This step is not required to be completed until February. If you have the information ready to submit, you are welcome to upload it at the time of registration, but it is not necessary at the time of registration.

All eligible applications are advanced to round one of the competition.

Registration opens November 1st, 2021!

How do you define ``Innovation``?
Innovation comes in many forms. While many of our past winners have had innovative product ideas, we are also looking for entrepreneurs with innovative services, processes, or business models. Innovation can be revolutionary. At times, it is simply an improvement or an incremental advance.

Here are just a few examples of business innovation in northwest Minnesota:

  • Digi-Key – innovative business model
  • Mattracks – innovative products
  • Central Boiler – innovative products
  • Northern Woolen Mills – innovative sales model
  • Wells Technology – innovation in product development
  • Weave Got Maille – innovative sales model
  • LaValley Industries – innovative products
  • Insect Inferno – innovative process
Is this an invention competition?
Not really. IDEA is more than an invention competition. IDEA is about the commercialization of ideas – in other words, turning great ideas into great businesses. An idea is only a beginning. It takes skill, strategy, and execution to turn an idea into something more. That is the purpose of the IDEA Competition – to help you turn your great idea into a profitable business venture.
What do I need to know about the IDEA process?
Application process – The IDEA process starts once you submit an application. Once you have submitted your application, IDEA will review it for eligibility. If your application is deemed eligible, you will be accepted into the Dream Builders Round of the competition, when our IDEA Competition selection committee will place participants into categories, such as Emerging Entrepreneur, Young Entrepreneur, etc. We do not yet know the categories; they will be determined based on entries received.


Round One – For the first round, you will have to submit a business plan, startup costs, and cash flow projections. The IDEA judging panel will review and score your materials and provide you with feedback on your plan and financials. The highest scoring round one applications will be advanced to the IDEA finals.


Finals – If you are chosen as an IDEA finalist, you will be asked to refine your business plan and financials based on the feedback you have received from round one. You will also be required to create a 30-second video and an oral presentation for the IDEA judging panel.


Winning the Competition – Based on the final business plan, financials, video, and oral presentation, the final judging panel will select winners who may receive a cash award, valuable professional services (accounting, legal, marketing), and attention in the media. Runners-up may also receive a prize, including potentially cash or complementary services. Additionally, a winner or runner-up will also be named a Minnesota Cup semifinalist.


All IDEA participants are winners! Simply going through the process has helped past participants refine their business strategies and better position themselves for commercial success, despite any prize they may or may not have been awarded.

How will my business idea be judged?
For both round one and the IDEA finals, a panel of judges will read and score each applicant on several key areas, with 1 to 10 points awarded for each of the following judging criteria: business opportunity, business model, strength of entrepreneur team, strength of financials, and strength of marketing plan.
Can I enter more than one idea?
IDEA does not encourage submitting applications for more than one idea. The effort to launch just one idea is quite exhaustive. Applicants are encouraged to enter the competition with the idea that has the greatest potential to generate revenue.
What are the eligibility requirements?
To be eligible, you must be either a resident of Northwest Minnesota, or own a business that is located in Northwest Minnesota. Award monies will not be disbursed to any individual without either proof of residency or proof of business location within Northwest Minnesota.

For the purposes of the IDEA Competition, Northwest Minnesota includes the following counties: Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake and Roseau.

Either an individual or a team of up to four persons is eligible.

What is the cost to enter?
This year, the IDEA Competition is launching no-cost registration!

We do ask, and expect, that all registrants be committed to developing their idea into a successful business, with a willingness to commit the time necessary to work with our consultants in developing all necessary plans.

How can I be assured that my idea is safe?
IDEA organizers will take reasonable steps to protect participants’ intellectual property, and we ask that you also take appropriate steps to protect your ideas.
Our responsibility
Electronic and hard copies of business plan entries will be viewed by or distributed to judges and organizers only. Our judging panel – comprised of experienced investors, executives, business service professionals, and entrepreneurs – is accustomed to hearing ideas, business pitches and new deals on a regular basis. Each member respects the entrants’ confidentiality rights and signs a confidentiality agreement as a condition of their participation; however, IDEA will not arbitrate any disputes over judges’ handling of entries. Additionally, if there is a relationship between a member of the judging panel and an entrant, it will be disclosed to other judges for that particular entry, and the judge will recuse themselves from judging that entry if it is determined that a conflict of interest exists.
Your responsibility
First and foremost, as an entrant, you are free to exclude any material you feel to be truly proprietary and at risk of disclosure. However, business plans that are incomplete or missing information will be very difficult for our judging panel to evaluate and the scoring of your application may be affected. If there is material that you will be sharing that is truly proprietary, whether you are sharing it with IDEA or anyone else, you should take appropriate steps to protect yourself. We recommend that you go to the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the most up to date information and resources on patents.

If you are part of a team, intra-team confidentiality is the sole responsibility of team members, and we will not arbitrate any disputes among team members that arise during the competition. Individuals or teams advancing to the final round will be required to submit a brief statement of their venture to be used for public relations purposes. This may be as general or specific as a team desires, but it should be considered public information. We expect all judges to act ethically. Special note: all developmental work done with the Northwest Small Business Development Center will be confidential and a signed confidentiality form will be in place prior to beginning consulting work.

Partner Organizations
  • Northwest Minnesota Foundation
  • Headwaters Regional Development Commission
  • Northwest Regional Development Commission
  • LaunchPad
  • University of Minnesota – Crookston
  • Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence
  • University of Minnesota Extension
Hall of Fame Winners
  • Batchelder Family
  • Christian Brothers Inc.
  • Keith Johanneson Family
  • Steiger Family
  • Don Ricke
  • Mark Larson and Ron Stordahl
  • William (Bill) S. Marvin
  • Dennis and Glen Brazier
  • Andy Wells
  • Edgar Hetteen
Regional Impact Award Winners
  • Michelle Landsverk
  • Grant Oppegaard

Contact Mic McCrory, Competition Organizer