BALSA Foundation Frequently Asked Questions
What does the BALSA Grant application form look like?
You can see a sample of the Spring 2018 BALSA Grant application here. See here for tips about writing a strong application and sample applications.
Who can apply to Idea Support?
All first-time entrepreneurs are eligible to participate in Idea Support. Depending on available resources, we may prioritize applications which fit the BALSA Grant eligibility criteria (below).
Who can apply to the BALSA Grant?
The goal of The BALSA Foundation is to empower first-time entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. The BALSA Grant provides resources to first-time entrepreneurs who need and will benefit from them the most. Eligibility requirements are based on these aims.
In general, having team members with the following criteria will make an application ineligible for the BALSA Grant:
- Having started a successful business before. We wish to exclude serial entrepreneurs and those who were or are making a living from a business they started.
- Having received any outside equity investment, significant outside funding, or a previous BALSA Grant. Financial support from the founders, their family, and personal friends is OK.
- Living outside of the greater St. Louis area. Our aim is to help those in the St. Louis region, broadly defined as residing or operating within 25 miles of St. Louis City Hall.
We welcome applications from all business sectors, whether for-profit or non-profit, and from everyone regardless of US citizenship. We reserve the right to adjust our eligibility criteria, however. Please contact us if you have questions or are unsure if you are eligible. Special consideration can be made in exceptional circumstances.
What is significant outside funding?
While we don't have hard cutoffs for outside funding, we focus on applications for which the BALSA Grant can make a meaningful difference. If you've received funding to start and run your business (i.e. amounts significantly more than the BALSA Grant provides) your application will be less competitive.
In the BALSA Grant application we ask:
- How much grant funding and/or fundraising have you received to pursue your idea? This includes awards, grants, crowdfunding, or fundraising, excluding that from yourself and your family, and personal friends.
- How much equity investment have you received to pursue your idea?
- How much in loans have you obtained to pursue your idea, excluding that from yourself, family, and personal friends?
We expect a good faith estimate of the support you have received. Significant omissions will disqualify you from the BALSA Grant.
What BALSA grants are awarded?
BALSA Grant finalists receive the following awards:
- Cash grants of $1,000,
- In-kind donations and professional services, including legal, accounting, marketing, and working space,
- BALSA Learning Series workshops about starting a business,
- Opportunities for one-on-one mentoring.
The number or amount of cash awards and professional services will vary depending on availability.
WHO ARE IDEA SUPPORTERS?
Idea Supporters are graduate students, scientists, business professionals, investors, and seasoned entrepreneurs, all dedicated to helping grow the St. Louis entrepreneurial community. Many Idea Supporters are experienced BALSA Group consultants, some have significant experience in local and national start-up communities, and others work for major local universities and corporations. See list.
How are BALSA Grant finalists selected?
An external committee of serial entrepreneurs and business leaders review BALSA Grant applications and rank them according to criteria such as:
- How well does the proposed idea/solution address the market need?
- How reasonable and achievable are the milestones and budget?
- Does the team have enough experience and dedication to move this idea forward or demonstrate a way to obtain this experience?
- How well does the applicant fit the mission of The BALSA Foundation?
- How useful would a grant of $1,000, professional services, and mentorship be to the applicant's success?
What is required of BALSA Grant recipients?
All BALSA Grant finalists are expected to participate in the following programs and events,
- Present a pitch of our business at the BALSA Grant awards ceremony,
- Participate in a pitch practice session prior to the awards ceremony,
- Attend the Learning Series, a series of 8-10 classes, which introduce you to the basics of starting a business from business experts. We will announce the Learning Series schedule when we inform you that you are a finalist.
Cash grant recipients must also establish a corporate entity, open a business bank account, and document how the grant was used. You will be asked to sign a contract stating you agree to these responsibilities. We may also invite you to serve as an advisor and mentor for other applicants and participate in future outreach events.
How many members can be on my team?
There are no restrictions on team size. Think carefully when choosing business partners. Only consider people that are as passionate and dedicated as you are and who meet the eligibility criteria.
Are multiple applications allowed per team?
You can submit your plan to Idea Support as many times as you like, as long as you make an effort to incorporate the feedback and make it better each time.
Only one application per person/team is allowed for each BALSA Grant round. Non-finalists can reapply in later BALSA Grant rounds.
Must my company be formed before applying for Idea Support or BALSA Grant?
No, you do not need to have formed a company (registered with the Secretary of State and/or incorporated as an LLC) around your idea. If you are a BALSA Grant finalist, to receive your cash award you will need to form your company, obtain an Employee Identification Number (EIN), and open a bank account. All of this is explained in the Entrepreneur’s Roadmap and can be completed after you become a BALSA Grant finalist.
Are my ideas protected?
We do not sign nondisclosure agreements, but you shouldn't have to worry about someone stealing your business idea. Your success depends much more on your skills, dedication, and execution than on the idea or concept itself. We are committed to helping you develop your business idea, and you are better off sharing your ideas to find support and help in improving them.
If your business idea does have a secret sauce you don't want to share, then don't share it. You can still complete a strong application without providing proprietary details. You can read more about intellectual property in our Entrepreneur's Roadmap.
Is there an entry fee?
No. All BALSA Foundation programs are free.
Why was I not chosen as a BALSA Grant finalist?
Coming up with a good business idea is hard, and no one gets it right the first time. If you want to improve your business idea and make your application better, be sure to check out the Entrepreneur's Roadmap and Idea Support. The Roadmap is our guide to starting a business, and Idea Support is free help from business experts. Use both to make your application better, and when the next BALSA Grant round rolls around you'll have a much better shot at being a finalist.
Keep in mind that evaluating business ideas, especially those in their infancy, is challenging and subjective, and we have limited resources to share with many deserving applicants. We may exclude applications which are judged too advanced or in need of too many resources for us to be of significant help.
When are your programs available?
- The Entrepreneur's Roadmap can be downloaded anytime.
- You can apply to Idea Support anytime.
- You can apply to the BALSA Grant twice a year, in early January and July. We publicly announce finalists at the Awards Ceremony about two months after.
Are there restrictions on how I can use the BALSA Grant?
All BALSA Grant awards must be spent toward the development of your business idea, and we require that you document these expenses.
Does The BALSA Foundation take any equity in my company if I am awarded a BALSA Grant?
No. The grant is a one-time award that will not be exchanged for any equity stake.
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