Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), in partnership with the Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation office and USDA Rural Development, are hosting the first-ever Startup Appalachia Pitch competition on Thursday, Sept. 5 at New Beginnings Fellowship Church in Pikeville, according to a statement released by SOAR.

The event, according to the statement, is in conjunction with the 2019 SOAR Summit scheduled for Sept. 5-6 at Appalachian Wireless Arena (formerly the East Kentucky Expo Center).  The top pitch will go home with a $5,000 cash prize.  The statement also indicates a runner-up and third-place award will be $2,500 and $1,000, respectively.  

According to the statement, those interested in making the pitch must apply at,  Applicants must be located in one of Kentucky’s 54 Appalachian counties and they will also be required to answer a series of questions and submit a business plan, the statement said. The deadline for applications is Aug. 16, 2019. A committee will evaluate each application and invite a group of finalists to make their pitch at the Sept. 5, 2019 event, according to the statement.

SOAR launched its SOAR Innovation program earlier this year, according to the statement.  This is a collaboration with the Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation Office that, the statement said, provides services to businesses that wish to scale-up, expand markets, and/or create new markets by utilizing technology, and to entrepreneurs whose idea has the capacity to reach customers outside of the region.

“Our partnership with the Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation office has allowed us to deploy a team of business and innovation champions throughout Appalachia Kentucky and offer the services of our network of partners,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “What we have learned is that the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving throughout our region, and our boots-on-the-ground approach is allowing those who have ideas to have a champion working on their behalf each and every day to turn their dream into a reality.”

Jason Rainey, deputy executive director of KY Innovation, said the Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition is an opportunity to showcase how the people of Appalachia Kentucky are leveraging technology to create their own future.

“It is remarkable to see the ideas that are coming out of communities across eastern Kentucky,” said Rainey. “These startups are leveraging our greatest resource in the Commonwealth – our people, and collaborations, such as this, is leveraging resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses like never before.  This work is critically important to making sure that Appalachia Kentucky is a place of endless opportunities to plant and grow a business.”

According to the statement, successful pitch applications should address five key components, including scalability, market, technology, location and team building.

The statement said SOAR would be seeking businesses and ideas with existing customers and revenue that are looking to scale their business.  Innovative businesses that are still in the concept phase will be considered, businesses that are providing a service and/or product that has a market outside of your community and preferably, outside of Appalachia, businesses that are leveraging technology in their business sales, production, and/or marketing processes, primary business operations should be based out of one of the 54 Appalachian designated counties in Kentucky and pitches should showcase the importance of a strong team; preference will be given to businesses who have a strong leadership team in place, according to the statement.

The Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition is also supported by SOAR’s resource partners, according to the statement, including Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED), Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), Kentucky’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and Invest 606.

For more information on the Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition, contact Ryan Jones at, (606) 766-1160, or by email at,

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