Ready to engage Startup Quest in your area?

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Meet Mary

“I can’t say enough about Startup Quest®. It’s not an easy program. You have to do your due diligence and advance your skill sets, but if you do it well, these people are so supportive. They answer questions and help you make connections.” -Mary Ohlfs, 2013 Graduate

Mary Ohlfs had been laid off as an IT technician for almost a year when she began the Startup Quest® program in August 2013. Less than a year after she graduated from the program, Ohlfs signed a licensing agreement to commercialize a cutting-edge NASA technology to improve roadway safety. This was the same technology Ohlfs and her team built a business plan around during their participation in the program.

Mary is one of the thousands of Startup Quest® graduates who learned to create her job instead of find her job.

Meet Startup Quest®

Startup Quest® is a 10-session hands-on learning experience for unemployed
and underemployed educated professionals. The program provides an introduction
to the processes required to form a startup company and develop a
commercialization strategy for innovative technologies. Participants walk away
from the program with a greater understanding of entrepreneurship and business
startup knowledge and skills that will help them achieve self-employment or
employment with a new or existing company.

Who Participates?

Startup Quest® is a community-wide collaboration of participants, mentors,
successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, educators, and community
decision-makers. The program is renowned for its ability to bridge gaps across
different sectors to instill the entrepreneurial drive and spirit into the
participants as well as the communities in which the programs take place.


Startup Quest® participants are the lifeblood of the program. Whether
someone is looking to start their own business, looking for experience in a new
role at a new company, or looking to be the lead innovator in their current
company, Startup Quest® has the training curriculum to help community residents
as a participant.

Participants are recruited to the program by local leaders or the Community
Coordinator. They’re placed onto teams and are guided through the 10-session
program under the tutelage of experienced business mentors. They close out the
program with well-known business and entrepreneur figures in the community who
act as judges for a pitch contest, oftentimes with cash and in-kind prizes
provided by sponsors and the community.


Mentors are critical to the success of the Startup Quest® Program. They are
successful business people and entrepreneurs, often serial entrepreneurs,
motivated to engage in the program. Some are interested in giving back to the
community while others are exploring future business opportunities from seeking
new hires to scouting future investments or exploring new technologies with a


Judges score the final investor pitch contest. Judges are investors, CEOs of
successful companies and other experienced individuals in business development.
Like mentors, they often participate as a way to give back to the community and
seek out new opportunities for leadership, investment, or new hires.

Community Coordinator

The Community Coordinator is typically a well-networked individual with
established relationships with community leaders . They are the lead for
convening and hosting a Startup Quest® program in partnership with the Startup
Quest® team. They work actively with recruiting and engaging mentors and
judges, holding collaboration meetings, and developing community relationships.
This person is typically a community leader that can organize and lead the
community involvement and local collaboration which is at the heart of Startup
Quest® and the community’s ecosystem.

Get Started

There are a number of other positions for each Startup Quest® initiative.
Explore how to host Startup Quest® in your community.