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14 Businesses Compete for $90,000 in Prizes

Entrepreneurs advance for the next phase of the Next Great Idea Oswego County Business Plan Competition

Austin Wheelock, deputy director of Operation Oswego County and Next Great Idea chairperson.
Austin Wheelock, deputy director of Operation Oswego County and Next Great Idea chairperson.

The Next Great Idea (NGI) competition kicked off in spring 2021 when entrepreneurs submitted 24 business concept proposals ranging from manufacturing, biotechnology, mobile app development, hospitality, agritourism, micro brewing, retail, and specialized services. 

Of those, 14 semi-finalists have been invited to continue to the second phase, developing a full business plan.

In September, they will submit their business plans which include a full business narrative along with financial projections to NGI’s panel of 10 judges to determine who will be selected as the finalists to compete in the final round of the competition this November. 

The winners of NGI will be announced at an awards luncheon to follow at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center. 

“The Next Great Idea is the result of business and community leaders joining together to launch a competition that encourages entrepreneurs to commit to new business development in Oswego County and offers cash and other prizes totaling $90,000 to help make several entrepreneurs dreams come true,” Austin Wheelock, deputy director of Operation Oswego County and NGI chairperson, said. 

The semi-finalists still competing in the Next Great Idea Oswego County Business Plan Competition are:

• Bliztown Brewing, a start-up nano brewery owned by Eric McElveen, who would utilize the funds from NGI to produce high quality artisanal ales with locally sourced ingredients for their own tap room as well as work with local restaurants, hotels and pubs to develop their own house brand ales.

• Empire Drone, owned by partners John McGraw and Sean Falconer have proposed CropFlight, a suite of specialized agricultural drone services to their growing business which would create new technology jobs in Fulton as well as provide small to medium size farmers with an all-in-one technology platform to treat their fields more efficiently and effectively.

• Feral Hive Meadworks, owned by Jonathan Shaver, is looking to capitalize on the craft alcoholic beverage boom in New York state by establishing the mead works which will locally produce draft mead, a new and unique beverage. The product will be sold on site in a tap room as well as be available for carry out.

• Fort Frisbee, owned by Steven Mollica, is looking to put its own unique spin on the pet boarding and grooming business. As a veteran-owned business, he plans to offer a one stop shop for pet services in Fulton, which will carry products from other veteran-owned pet businesses and would give back to veteran support organizations.

• Mobile Hydraulic Hose, a start-up created by James Macklen, would utilize the NGI prize to develop a mobile hydraulic repair and fabrication business that would service the many manufacturing, agriculture and logging operations in and around Oswego County. This mobile service is especially needed in rural areas where extended downtime can be catastrophic to business.

Moth & Flame Basecamp, a unique concept “glamping” business developed by co-founders Amanda McLoughlin and Paula Barreto, would allow visitors to stay, play and support local in the outdoor landscapes of Oswego County while having a unique and secure stay and experience in nature. If funded, this business would develop distinctive basecamps in a scenic location that would complement the growing outdoor recreation and event tourism industry in Oswego County.

• Peaceful Acres Hard Cider, founded by Dan Shutt, would create a niche farm cidery from all natural wild and heirloom apples grown on a hundred-year-old orchard on the shores of Lake Ontario. If awarded the NGI prize, funds would be used to scale up production and develop a tasting room in Mexico.

• Sensory Space Kids Gym, created by Stacey Lawson, would provide a parent-led sensory-friendly space for children with autism and other sensory processing disorders. More than just a gym, the facility would have space for events, education, and personalized therapeutic sensory enrichment classes.

• Six Acres Farm Brewing, founded by Jenna Behling in Mexico, would be the first niche beverage company of its kind to develop fruit-infused beers with locally grown fruit and proprietary methods to create naturally full-flavored fruit ale beverages. The business would utilize the NGI funds to scale production, develop a tasting room on site, and begin distribution. 

• Stress Biotech, LLC, a biotechnology research service proposal developed by Kestusis Bendinskas, would build on his academic background in developing research on stress which is an underserved market opportunity. There is an opportunity in stress research due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as increased political division. Better understanding stress could lead to better health, productivity, and relationships. This business concept could play an integral part in this growing market sector.

• Super Paintball, a business created by founder and inventor George Kalkowsky, seeks to revolutionize the way that the sport of paintball is played with the development of new equipment that would be designed and manufactured in-house. As an avid paintball participant with a strong engineering background, George has created new products that he believes will provide the user a better experience and could be quickly adopted into the market.

• The Break Wall, founded by Aubrey Avery, would be a self-pour tap room that would add a unique experience to downtown Oswego. This business would not only adopt new technology including PourmyBeer self-pour taps and large touch screens but it would allow the user to be their own bartenders. It would also be educational, providing information on each of the ingredients and the production process of each beverage.

• Tulip’s Boutique, owned by Kristin Shanley Graves, is a startup niche boutique store offering gently used dresses and other clothing. There will be special events including Prom Dress Pop-Ups and the store will work with local schools to provide dresses and clothing at low costs to those who need assistance.

• Wellhouse Ministries, a startup nonprofit organization led by president and co-founder Kateri Spinella would use the funds from Next Great Idea to start Anthony House, a free 24-hour care facility for terminally ill residents with medical services provided by hospices. This type of facility would be the first of its kind in Oswego County.

In addition to awarding $90,000 in cash and services to the winners, some of the anticipated outcomes from the Next Great Idea program include: developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurism in Oswego County; improving the quality of life for the community by bringing innovative and needed businesses and services to Oswego County; fighting the ‘brain drain’ by encouraging the best and brightest to stay local; creating new job opportunities and markets; and expanding the tax base.

“We’ve designed the NGI program in a way to benefit all the participants involved, not just the ultimate winner of the competition. If we have several finalist prize winners come out of this, plus many other bankable, feasible business plans with confident entrepreneurs then everyone wins, especially Oswego County,” Wheelock said.

The Next Great Idea competition, originally started in 2008, has awarded four winners to date and has grown from a $25,000 winner-take-all competition to multiple winners with $90,000 in total prizes. The overall winner of the 2021 NGI competition will receive $50,000 cash toward starting or expanding their business in Oswego County. Second prize is $10,000 in cash and $15,000 in business services and third prize is $5,000 cash and $10,000 in business services.  Support for NGI comes from the Richard S. Shineman Foundation, Operation Oswego County, Inc., Advance Media NY, C&S Companies, Pathfinder Bank, the SUNY Oswego Business Resource Center, the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, National Grid and Chirello Advertising.

The competition website,, includes an overview of the event, a competition timeline, guidelines, sponsors, and contact information.