Have The Best Business Idea In Stephenson County? Shark Tank Style Competition Comes To Freeport

Journal Standard And Partners Start “Fish Tank” And Here’s Why That’s Good For Freeport

Freeport, Illinois – Have you ever dreamed of one day owning your own business? Being independent, carving your own way, charting your own path? Sticking it to the 9-5, clock punching, cubicle man?

If you’ve ever thought about starting a little business or, have had this “idea” in the back of your head, the Journal Standard, in a partnership with other local professionals may just have the opportunity you’ve always been looking for. It’s even open to current business owners and non-profits.

The Journal Standard recently published an initiative, yes an initiative called Fish Tank, in a recent Sunday addition of their newspaper.

Where you might expect a headline story, some news of the day, it seems the six day a week newspaper is delving into actively pursuing growth in the town it once called its home.

Encouraging entrepreneurship is the headline of the day.

The Fish Tank initiative, made up of a group of local professionals working with newspaper staff, takes a spin off the very popular TV show called Shark Tank only on a much smaller, more localized scale.

In addition, the editor of the paper Jillian Duchnowski did an in depth story documenting the efforts of the city of Monmouth, Illinois, who did something similar and saw real success.

At Shark Tank small business owners, product inventors and those with nothing more than an idea and a plan behind it come forward and present to a panel of judges, many of whom are billionaires.

They ask for a dollar amount of investment from the panel and for that, they are willing to give up a portion of their company. The hope is one of the sharks sees an opportunity, takes the deal and chooses to invest.

Fish Tank is a similar idea just minus the billionaires, the global retail and industry connections, the wheeling and dealing (to some extent) and most likely they’re not going to take a piece of your pie.

It does look like however there’s an opportunity here if you’re that person who’s always wanted to own your own business or, have a great idea for Freeport or our County that you’ve been sitting on.

This time, it could actually happen.

Here’s How Fish Tank Works:

  • You submit your idea to The Journal-Standard by September 9, 2016.
  • A video, written description, something in 200 words or less. Videos should be 3 minutes or less.
  • A committee including business, financial and legal experts will select a top five.
  • The Journal Standard will then ask the public their opinion of the finalists.
  • The grand finalists will be invited to do a public presentation in Oct. 26 at The Wagner House
  • The winner gets an undisclosed amount of cash and pro bono services”.
  • All ideas are welcome but are required to be a business that would exist in Stephenson County.

Here’s What We Like About Fish Tank:

  • It’s a start of fostering a feeling of community entrepreneurship through the media.
  • Anyone in the county has an opportunity here. Literally anyone.
  • It’s a chance to learn the in’s and out’s of running a business with workshops being held along the way.
    Brian Borger will hold a seminar from 6-7:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at The Wagner House, 1 E. Spring St
  • It makes a start in taking the focus off job loss in Freeport and moves it to small business and opportunity.
  • You may actually become the proud owner of the business you’ve always dreamed of.
  • You may actually see your idea for our city or our County, happen. How cool would that would!
  • There’s talk of Free Rent for 3 months or longer, cash, mentoring, financial advisors as prizes.

What We’re Not Crazy About With Fish Tank:

  • At last we saw the prize package wasn’t clearly defined.
  • There will be cash — we’re recruiting donors — and the pro bono services volunteers provide will be priceless“, according to the paper .  They added that they hope to throw in some others.
  • They are still recruiting mentors and prizes. If you have a really really great idea, it’s not real clear exactly what you’re going to get.
  • The committee who will select a top five aren’t known. Part of the appeal of Shark Tank is getting in front of successful people. It’s the “opportunity” to stand before Mark Cuban and home shopping expert Lori Greiner.
  • We’d like to see Fish Tank do a Shark Tank style promo on the “Committee” and really sell their expertise to the people.  🙂

Our Advice:

You’re competing. It doesn’t matter if your idea is landscaping, a local root beer store, a clothing store or you’d like to sell a product or products, don’t minimize your own idea. Be excited about it, be enthusiastic and be confident.

We have no idea how many others will take part in this local challenge, but if it were us, we’d do something off the charts to make us stand out.

That could be demonstrating our product in a unique way or, just telling your story. A good idea, with a good heart and a touching story behind it will go a long way. Pretend your Eminem and you only got one shot. Go for it.

Even though this is “Fish Tank” pretend it’s “Shark Tank”. Go watch some episodes of Shark Tank and see how contestants have submitted to the TV Show.

Get creative, and most importantly, don’t be intimidated.

Lastly, don’t give up any secrets. Don’t disclose your “secret recipe”. We’re not suggesting anyone part of Fish Tank would take your idea, but it’s just common sense that if you know you really do have a good business idea, protect it. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the way it is.

You don’t know what desk your idea may land on or who may overhear your video and a lot of people have a lot more money than you do. It’s just a smart word of protection.

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with making Fish Tank earn it.  They’ll have financial advisors, business advisors, legal advisors, at the end of the day if you’re idea is really good and you even make it to the top five, you have something good on your hand and their services aren’t free.

Don’t be intimated by that (because most every business has those expenses), just be smart.

All in all, we say absolutely go for it. Take a part in Fish Tank whether you want to be in the competition or just get the advice.

It’s a great thing for our people, great for our community and who knows, this could be the start of a new cookie cut decade where Freeport turns out small businesses and local jobs one after the other.

Winter & Associates did it with housing in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and in the city of Freeport there are streets named after members of the family. Our hope is that this is the start of the same wave of growth, except in today’s age of need which is one business at a time.

We dream of a day where the (local) media takes fostering entrepreneurship to other levels, such as preventing crime, furthering education, reducing poverty and numerous other aspects of the city it reports on.

Rather than just reporting it, which does nothing for anyone, we believe that within our community is the solution to drastically reducing nearly every problem we have.  We believe our local media has an immense opportunity to influence that.

Perhaps this is a start.


If you’d like more information on Fish Tank or the goals of Fish Tank to educate entrepreneurs about the resources that are available to help them, visit http://www.journalstandard.com/fishtank

Applications should be sent to fishtank@journalstandard.com.

If you’d like to volunteer as a mentor or donate a prize, please email fishtank@journalstandard.com.

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