Applications are flying in for Rotorua's annual Pitch Night, where aspiring businesses vie to win a share of $10,000 worth of business support prizes.
The night is run by Rotorua Trust X, which also runs a monthly networking event to connect and inspire local business owners and leaders.
Rotorua Trust X chairman Darren McGarvie said he was blown away by the growth in numbers over the last year.
"Interest and attendance in our monthly events show that the Rotorua business community is hungry for opportunities to connect, be inspired and learn from others who are leading the way.
"Our first event in 2009 had 12 attendees. That grew up to an average of 40 attendees after a few years. Over the last year growth has accelerated rapidly, and we are now seeing up to 80 people coming along each month, which is huge."
McGarvie said Pitch Night was their biggest event and this year they have had an unprecedented level of quality applications.
"Usually we are shoulder-tapping people to apply to pitch, but this time applications have flown in.
"We have made the decision to close applications early, and increase the number of teams pitching to eight, rather than six."
The winners on the night will share $10,000 of business support prizes that includes co-working, business training, legal advice, HR advice, branded water bottles and marketing support.
To ensure the pitches are a high calibre, teams must attend a 90-minute pitching workshop by Firestation, the central North Island business growth centre.
All teams also have an hour individual coaching session to finesse their pitch.
This year's panel of judges are Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology chief executive Dr Leon Fourie, Mark Copeland Lawyers principal Mark Copeland, 2017 Epic pitch winner and chairwoman of Ka Pai Kai Rotorua Jasmin Jackson, Taupo Chamber of Commerce president Catie Noble, Destination Rotorua chief executive Michelle Templar and Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick as head judge.
"Pitch Night is a fun and lively evening showcasing the entrepreneurs in our region," McGarvie said.
"Attendance is free, and we encourage the business community to come along and help pick the crowd favourite."
Pitch Night is Wednesday, October 31 from 5.30pm at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.
To RSVP or find out more details go to www.rotoruax.nz.