Eyes on the Prize: A Look at the Amarillo EnterPrize Challenge with Lloyd Brown
With the importance the EnterPrize Challenge has played for the Amarillo economy and businesses in the area, we spoke with Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board member Lloyd Brown about the program and its impact.
For those unfamiliar with the EnterPrize Challenge, how would you describe the program and its mission?
EnterPrize Challenge is set up as a way for young companies that need seed capital for their businesses to help them meet specific objectives and/or physical assets, to go and grow their business. That’s what the original vision of the EnterPrize Challenge is and was when it was started years ago.
What kind of impact has the EnterPrize Challenge had on the local economy since its creation?
I can speak to some of the companies that have gone through the process. As a matter of fact, I was a partner in a company that won, I think, in the second year. A large majority of the companies that have received funds have survived, what we call, the five-year window of business. As a young company, the failure rate is about 70% within five years. The companies that have been vetted and gone through the EnterPrize Challenge—and when I say vetted, I mean their business plans have been analyzed, they have presented to multiple third parties that have rated their business plan, and gone through multiple coaching protocols—those businesses have predominately succeeded in surviving those five years and going.
Is there a specific company that has gone through the EnterPrize Challenge that you would highlight as one of the top success stories through the program?
Right off the top of my head, Altura Engineering. They won Inc. 5000, I believe, three years in a row! They started out winning the EnterPrize Challenge and then went into the incubation process at the WT Enterprise Center. They are, obviously, an amazing success story!
Why should local business owners take an interest in the EnterPrize Challenge?
If a business owner is in a place where their business does not have the ability to go through a traditional financing opportunity at a bank or they want to make sure the plan they have—the product and/or service—they are developing and/or growing, and they need the confirmation that they have something that is scalable, going through the EnterPrize Challenge helps them get that validation. If you win in the EnterPrize Challenge and go through the process and are awarded the grant, that is great validation that you have something special to move forward; it’s recognized by the companies or individuals that judge the competition.
Since the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation (EDC) plays such a major role with the EnterPrize Challenge, what kinds of economic development impacts can we expect to see in the future thanks to the program?
I think it’s seeing ideas, products, and services that are homegrown that are going out to reach businesses throughout the state and country. A vibrant, healthy economy needs an entrepreneurial spirit in that city. That’s the reason the EDC supports the EnterPrize Challenge. We believe in helping the local economy grow business. That’s part of our function, and the EnterPrize Challenge helps that. Another part of our function is to help retain and grow the business and current companies in our community and, of course, recruit other companies to come and choose Amarillo as home. It’s really a three-fold solution and the EnterPrize Challenge is a part of that.