Big Idea Kearney

big idea kearney logo 

Do you have Big Idea? Is it the next big business, product, or service? Or does your idea solve a problem

Returning for an exciting 12th year, Big Idea Kearney is once again poised to give aspiring entrepreneurs a chance to win up to $2,000 in seed money to launch your Big Idea!

Spearheaded by Cultivate Student Organization and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, the competition is designed to foster and showcase the innovative business and product ideas emerging from our talented pool of UNK students as well as from the wider community.

About Big Idea

Ideas are submitted in advance, narrowed down to a group of finalists, and ideas are pitched LIVE in front of an audience and panel of judges. Pitches must be 2 minutes or less. Each pitch is followed by a Q&A.

Top ideas will win access and discounts to key resources, business coaching and planning services, and startup money to launch their business in Kearney!

The contest is open to UNK students and Kearney area community members. Participants under 18 years of age will require parental consent.

How to Enter

Idea submission will open on Tuesday, January 16th, and close on Tuesday, February 20th at midnight. Finalists will be notified by February 24th. Finalists will work with the Center for Entrepreneurship & Rural Development to refine their pitch.

Ideas can be business or product ideas for Kearney (and beyond...eventually). It can be retail-based, technology-driven, a product invention, food service, service-based, etc. The sky is the limit! 

To submit your Big Idea, fill out the form at the link below. Here are the details we will ask for:

  • Contact Information

  • Idea Name

  • Select the category that your idea falls under:

    • Retail

    • IT / Tech / Web Services

    • Service 

    • Product Invention

    • Food Service / Food-Related

    • Other

  • Idea Description: Tell us about your idea – what have you accomplished for your idea thus far?

  • Target Industry: Who are your customers? What industry are you focusing on?

  • In The Next Six Months: Whether you win or not, what would you like to accomplish in the next six months to move this idea forward?

  • Innovation & Creativity: What makes your idea innovative? Why do you want to pursue this idea in your community? Why are YOU the person to make this happen?

Submit your idea

Pitch Night

Finalists will pitch their ideas in front of a live audience Tuesday, March 5th, 2024, at Legacy on the Bricks in downtown Kearney. Social will start at 5:30 PM and pitches will start at 6:30 PM. This event is free and open to the public.


The top 10 finalists, as determined by our panel of expert judges, will have the opportunity to present their ideas during a live pitch event on March 5th at Legacy on the Bricks in downtown Kearney. Cash prizes of $2,000, $1,000, and $500 will be awarded for first, second, and third places respectively to the live pitch winners. Additionally, a prize will be awarded for “People’s Choice.” All finalists receive something including gift bags, access to professional services, and startup cash! Plus, the networking and connections received at this event are invaluable.

Big Idea is sponsored by

dcbc logo CBT Logo  allo logo   invest nebraska logo nebraska enterprise fund logo  nutech logo   

Event Sponsors

Event sponsors support Big Idea Kearney and make pitch night possible. Thank you to these sponsors for elevating the event for Big Idea. Email Sara at to become an Event Sponsor.

Professional Partners

Professional Partners are committing free or discounted services to the Top 5 finalists. These services can include, but are not limited to the following: business planning, legal, accounting, marketing, insurance, and branding & design. For paid services, we will limit professional partners to one business per industry. When you become a Professional Partner, you are offering free and discounted services to the Top 5 only, but we will recommend your services to all Big Idea Kearney finalists. Email Sara at  to become a Professional Partner.

jacobsen o r r logo      nebraska enterprise fund logo   kacc stacked logo  logo for countryman associates  farmers insurance logo

murray marketing logo


Sara Bennett, Cultivate Faculty Co-Advisor
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship & Rural Development