RISE program pushes into 2nd year following mulligan in 2021

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
SEDCO, along with Austin College and the Grayson Small Business Development Center, will be accepting applications for the Raising Innovative Sherman Entrepreneurs program through Feb. 3.

With the coming of the new year, a local economic development organization is giving an entrepreneurial grant program a second try. The program, which was first discussed in 2020 alongside initiatives to support women-owned and minority-owned businesses, offers up to $100,000 for innovative and entrepreneurial new businesses that are willing to locate in Sherman. 

The Sherman Economic Development Corp., in partnership with Austin College and the Grayson Small Business Development Center at Grayson College, has opened applications for its Raising Innovative Sherman Entrepreneurs program for its second year after not awarding the grant last year.

While the program launched in 2021, only two businesses applied. However, these businesses fell in the retail and service industries and were not eligible for the funding that SEDCO was able to offer.

"The real reason I think we didn't see any interest last year was a holdover from COVID," SEDCO Chief Administration Officer Ashton Bellows said. "I think people were being a little bit more cautious and waiting to see how the economy was."

While SEDCO cannot change who it is able to fund, Bellows said organizers have shifted the approach to feature more advertising. This year, SEDCO has funded television ads for the program, and Austin College is using its connections to other entrepreneurial programs to hopefully court businesses that would be interested in working in Sherman.

So far, the program has already generated more interest than it had in 2021. Since Jan. 3, three businesses have applied to participate in the program, with another two currently in the process of applying. Bellows said other businesses have attended informational meetings, but have yet to formally apply.

“Many cities are recognizing the importance of establishing and cultivating an entrepreneurial ecosystem within their business community,” SEDCO President Kent Sharp said. “RISE will allow some of Sherman’s economic development sales tax dollars to be allocated to aspiring young entrepreneurial endeavors in need of capital for growth.”

In order to apply, a business must be less than five year old and be fields including manufacturing, warehousing and other industries that can be supported as type-A eligible businesses. The business must also be located in Sherman or willing to locate in Sherman in order to receive the funds. More than 51 percent of a business' revenue must also come from outside Grayson County within three years of receiving the funds.

Manufacturing, 5 years or less in Sherman or willing to relocate to Sherman.

The first round will require businesses to provide basic information alongside a two-minute elevator pitch for their business. Later rounds will require more specific information, including a business plan and model.

The idea for the program came from similar programs that were put in place by Sharp in Abilene before he made the move to Sherman. In total, SEDCO is offering $250,000 to businesses that are willing to pitch their concept to local stakeholders.

"To be competitive in economic development you have to have a program for young, startup companies ... that can get capital to them because Texas is not a venture capital rich state," Sharp said in 2020. "In Grayson County there isn't a lot of capital. If someone has an idea here they are likely getting support from family members or they are going to the bank."

Prospective businesses have until Feb. 3 to submit applications for the first round. For more information, please visit www.riseinSherman.com.