Local entrepreneurs have the chance to scoop a $5000 prize, thanks to this year's edition of Innovate Whanganui.
The Dragons' Den-style competition is the brainchild of economic development agency Whanganui & Partners and Palmerston North collective The Factory.
Vaughan Campbell and his eco-friendly distillery Good Bones won last year's inaugural event.
Good Bones, which converts surplus baked goods into premium vodka, is set to be launched later in 2022.
A mechanic by trade, Campbell was one of the six finalists to enter the 10-week incubator programme in 2021.
As it was a "completely new adventure" for him, the programme was just as important as the prize money, Campbell said.
"I truly think that if I just tried to do this by myself I would have gone down in a burning heap of flames.
"What we learned was invaluable, and they showed what we all had inside us as well."
Entries for this year's competition are open until May 29.
Lauren Peat won the advertising prize last year for her bariatric coaching initiative.
Like Campbell, she said she didn't come from a business background.
"When I entered things were very, very new," Peat said.
"It was great to get that mentorship, and I learned that I needed more help from outside. Innovate definitely helped me with direction and planning.
"It was a good catalyst and put me on the right path."
She now has a team of five and the company grossed $120,000 in the last financial year.
A year-long support programme is now being offered for clients.
"It's really exciting. We've got 25 people on that at the moment," Peat said.
Whanganui & Partners business strategic lead Tim Easton said every contestant learned something from the process.
"We encourage people to enter and find out how viable their idea is.
"This is an amazing opportunity to get involved in the entrepreneurial community and find help to get your great idea off the ground."
He expected some contestants from last year to return.
"There will be some who will enter more than one idea, there will be many who are right at the start of developing their idea, and others who are well along in their business plans."
The top 20 entrants will attend workshops to prepare for their in-person pitches, which will take place before a room of judges.
Each contestant will have two minutes to get the judges inspired by their ideas.
Easton said there were a few false starts and forgotten pitch lines in 2021, which was a testament to the seriousness of the environment and the high stakes for the entrepreneurs.
"The incubator programme really tests competitors' adaptability and willingness to grow.
"It can be confronting and enlightening working with experienced mentors, and the process accelerates ideas."
The final step on the journey is the chance to pitch the ideas at an awards night in August.
"The cash prize will be hugely helpful and what they learn along the way is invaluable," Easton said.
Budding entrepreneurs needed a leg up, and organisations such as Whanganui & Partners helped people turn an idea into a real thing, Campbell said.
"Innovate was a massive help. I actually missed it when it ended. There were 10 weeks of us going there for an hour or two every Thursday night.
"I've had a few setbacks along the way since then, but you've just got to keep at it."
Whanganui & Partners has also developed a programme to help the business community get support and give their new ventures the best possible start.
The first start-up information session is scheduled for April 28.
They will provide a practical beginning point for people ready to turn an idea into a successful business, and for others who are ready to grow their start-up or new venture.
Entrepreneur meet-ups are set to start as well, to be held every six weeks beginning on May 5.
To find out more on Innovate Whanganui, head to innovatewhanganui.kiwi