Turning Ideas into Reality: Innovation & Entrepreneur Programs

The McAllen metro area and its surrounding communities are evolving. We are in the midst of growing opportunity, cutting-edge technology, and favorable conditions for new businesses. City leaders and your team members at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce are absolutely ecstatic about the possibilities that lie before us.

Perhaps what makes these prospects so exciting is that the individuals who make up our community have stepped up to the plate. Many of you are ready to turn your business dreams and products into a reality. There is a sense of great potential in the air that seems to draw people to McAllen and we are eager to help those who are ready to contribute to our great city. It is because of this reason that we have created a number of programs, services, and partnerships with other local organizations to provide innovators and entrepreneurs the support, connections, and funding they need to turn their ideas into action.

Your success is our goal at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. If you’d like more information about any of the following Innovation & Entrepreneur Programs contact us today at (956) 682-2871.

The Inventors & Entrepreneurs Network (I&E Network)

Whether you’re an inventor or entrepreneur, a beginner to business or experienced owner,  the I&E Network is the perfect opportunity to begin networking and collaborating with other visionaries just like you.

Held the fourth Thursday of every month (except for July & December) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, the I&E Network brings together individuals and business owners from all walks of life in order to discuss topics relevant to getting ideas off the ground. Absolutely FREE to attend, these monthly meetings are open to anyone in the community who is eager to learn and connect with others in order to share resources. The diverse range of participants means questions, challenges, and shared obstacles are approached from every angle, ensuring that you leave each meeting with a wealth of information and new ideas.

Each session begins with short introductions where participants are encouraged to briefly discuss their ideas and/or projects. After introductions, the group will break for networking with other innovators and entrepreneurs. The final portion of the meeting consists of a local expert providing information about a topic relevant to the business world. In past meetings, subjects have included:

  • Ideas for innovation
  • Crowdfunding
  • Success stories
  • Tips and strategies for overcoming business obstacles
  • How to create a pitch
  • Dealing with finances
  • 3D printing

And much more.

A springboard for the Chamber’s other programs, including the IdeaPlace and Innovation Grant, a number of prominent local business owners have participated in the I&E Network program such as David Rodriguez, the creator of the E-Z Gauge, as well as the inventor of the Panther Claw Lifting Hooks, a revolutionary tool for weightlifting enthusiast.

To RSVP a spot at this monthly meeting please contact your McAllen Chamber of Commerce at (956) 682-2871.

STC MOU Program

In 2016, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce entered into a historic agreement with South Texas College (STC) to begin designing prototypes for participants of the I&E Network. This Memorandum of Understanding with STC has allowed for the college’s Advanced Manufacturing and Architectural and Engineering Design Technology Program to begin offering its facilities, 3D printers, and instructors to assist in designing made to order prototypes for firms and individuals.

If you have developed an alpha prototype of your idea/product and are in need of additional guidance and support in creating a fully developed prototype with CAD designs, your McAllen Chamber of Commerce can help to advocate on your behalf. The process consists of:

  • Inventor/entrepreneur working with the Chamber to check feasibility of creating the product.
  • The Chamber will advocate on your behalf to STC; a meeting will be set up.
  • Inventor/entrepreneur meets with STC; work begins on design.
  • Final design is created and a CAD blueprint provided to you for future use.
  • 3D design created (if feasible).

While there are some fees that STC charges, they offer competitive pricing (versus regular marketplace pricing), and the Chamber also subsidizes a portion of the costs. This means inventors/entrepreneurs are able to obtain the financial assistance they need to turn their idea into a real-world product. Plus, you will retain 100% proprietorship of your product. Neither STC nor the McAllen Chamber of Commerce will claim any ownership percentage for assisting you along your path to success.

One such inventor who took advantage of this opportunity was Laly Quintanilla, who developed a combination cross-body handbag and cheering prop for sporting events that would meet security requirements. STC was able to create a prototype of her product within a week.

Innovation Grant

This one-of-a-kind grant offered by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce is the perfect opportunity for inventors, entrepreneurs and innovators to obtain funding for their product ideas. Providing up to $10,000 to applicants, the Innovation Grant has been instrumental in promoting innovation and business creation in the city of McAllen.

Established as a competition, candidates must apply for the grant and work their way through a rigorous process intended to simulate the real-world scenarios of soliciting funding from investors and venture capital firms. Entrepreneurs are awarded funding based on their ability to offer strong, viable ideas via an application process, as well as the delivery of a high-quality presentation - which they will generally have a few weeks to prepare for.    

The grants - which are NOT loans and do NOT have to be repaid - can be used for a number of purposes including but not limited to:

  • New product evaluation
  • Assessment of commercial potential
  • Product development
  • Test marketing
  • Patent research
  • Intellectual property rights procurement
  • Other activities as deemed appropriate by the review committee

The competition begins with the selection round where judges will review project summaries and applications using criteria that can be found here alongside the official 2018 rules. Should your product idea be chosen for the presentation round, you and your team - which can consist of two other members - will be tasked with creating a 10-minute pitch and undergo a 10-minute Q&A by the panel of judges. The quality of the idea, the strength of the management team, and the clarity and persuasiveness of the project plan and oral presentation will influence the judges’ decisions.

A few of the requirements (which can be found in the official rules linked above) include but are not limited to:

  • Individuals applying for this grant must live in McAllen or plan to open their business in McAllen
  • All ideas must be original work of the entering contestant(s)
  • All entrants must be 18 years or older
  • All winners must participate in the IdeaPlace program before receiving funding
  • A prototype of the product is required
  • Winner(s) must attend an IE Network event to share their experiences

Applications for the 2018 Innovation Grant are due no later than 4:30 p.m. (CST)) on May 28, 2018. Additional information including the Agreement Participation Form, Grant Application, and Project Summary Outline can be found here.

Recipients and products of the Innovation Grant have included Cappadona Ranch, Ready Tee, The Knife Glider, Janktified Goodness, LLC., In the Weeds Natural Skin Care, FiberRio Technology Corp., Right to Bear Arms Gun Case, Nuts and Cows, Cruise Control Entertainment, Bee Shield, Seat Buddy, and many more.

IdeaPlace

As part of the larger suite of programs and tools developed by the McAllen Chamber to foster small businesses and entrepreneurs, the IdeaPlace is an 8-week program that consists of innovators and inventors coming together in small groups to further develop and explore their ideas.

Meeting in small cohorts once a week at the McAllen Creative Incubator, participants of the IdeaPlace initiative come together to take their idea from a napkin drawing to real-world product. Sessions will consist of:

  • Product research
  • Defining customers
  • Understanding market space and categories
  • Financial opportunities and obstacles
  • Importance of distribution
  • Developing a pitch

The small but diverse groups are perfect for collaboration and allow every participant to obtain the personalized guidance they need to further their ideas. Seating is limited but open and reservation is required with classes filling up fast. We also request that all individuals please attend every meeting held during the 8-week sessions.

IdeaPlace has helped more than 150  inventors thanks to the sponsorship of Well Fargo, who have helped participants to obtain intellectual protection and distribution channels at locations such as La Plaza mall and HEB. Individuals from a number of organizations and business have participated in the IdeaPlace workshops including representatives of: P2E Waste-to-Energy, Sal Tech, Guardian E Health Solutions, Scanning Game, Reversible Footrest,  La Vegan Factory, Ranvu, and many more.       

If you would like to participate in this program please fill out this form and send it back to jsanchez@mcallenchamber.com.

Innovation and Entrepreneur Programs for the 21st-century leader. Contact your McAllen Chamber of Commerce today to learn how you can become a participant.