The Drive competition returns in October with $10K in seed money to a local entrepreneur

The Drive is a Shark Tank-style business pitch competition presented by Inventrek Technology Park. Finalists will pitch their business idea to a panel of judges in front of an audience in an effort to win the $10,000 prize. The event will be open to the public, and there’s no cost to attend.

As an initiative of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, the contest is open to those with a startup idea or expansion of an existing business located within Howard County. Expansion could include increasing square footage, adding a product line, and increasing geographical reach. Businesses with 100 or fewer employees are eligible to participate.

Those who competed filled out an entry form by May 1, 2024. The application can be found below. Through a review process, the Alliance w to select finalists. Finalists will go on to work with Alliance staff to create a solid business plan and perfect their pitch.

The competition will take place October 3, 2024 at Hingst Hall on the Ivy Tech Kokomo campus.

At the inaugural competition in 2019, judges awarded a total of $10,000 to three pitches, including software development, a solar power storage solution and a door-locking system for schools. In 2023, the judges selected Margaret Johnson, owner of the Wellness Garden, as the sole winner of the $10,000 prize. The Wellness Garden offers a customized approach to finding out where your body needs support and offers steps to meet those needs naturally. “We focus on nutrition, detoxification, gut, sleep and stress support,” said Johnson. “In-office testing gives us immediate results!” Johnson plans to use the money to hire and train staff to offer a broader reach of her services.

“We had four great finalists in 2023,” said Lori Dukes, President and CEO of the Greater Kokomo Alliance. “Our winner in 2023, Margaret, was a contestant in our 2022 competition. Her win last year is a great example of the perseverance it takes to make a small business successful. She also took advantage of the resources and tools available to her through this competition to continue her momentum and grow her opportunities.” This year, organizers plan to again award the entire $10,000 to a single business pitch. Dukes encourages local entrepreneurs and business owners to apply for this year’s contest.

The City of Kokomo and Community First Bank of Indiana have secured sponsorship spots again for this year’s event, with additional opportunities available. To become a Drive sponsor, contact Lori Dukes at

The Drive is an initiative of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance.

Our 2023 winner
Margaret Johnson, CEO and Founder of The Wellness Garden is the winner of the 2023 Drive Competition. She plans to use her $10,000 to hire and train staff to offer a broader reach of her services.
Call 765-457-2000 or click here to learn what space is currently available. 

Our 2024 Finalists

Crystina Diaz, Kingdom Kids Learning Center

Crystina Diaz is the owner of the Kingdom Kids Learning Center. She was motivated to give her children and children everywhere a chance to learn, grow, and succeed. She has worked in childcare for over seven years and has an associate degree in Science in Elementary Education. Kingdom Kids Learning Center has no waitlist and accepts all children from ages three to five in Kokomo. She hopes to expand her building to welcome more children into her daycare in the future.

Gary Rhinebarger, Rhine Hall Event Venue

Gary Rhinebarger is the owner of Rhine Hall Event Venue. The event space originated from an abandoned church from the 1930s that was transformed into a modern event venue for weddings, parties, and public events. Rhinebarger’s vision for Rhine Hall is to add to the revitalization of Kokomo while keeping historical charm. In the future, he hopes to continue revitalizing Kokomo by bringing in high-profile events closer to home.

Luke Talley, Backwoods Trading Company

Luke Talley is the owner of Backwoods Trading Company. He specializes in custom leather design products such as patches for hats. He has an MBA and works full time in a major career, but he took what was once his hobby into a full business. Backwoods Trading Company is based out of Talley’s garage and only has a few employees. He hopes to expand his business in the future into a permanent brick-and-mortar building and elevate his marketing and promotions.

Thank you to the sponsors of the 2024 Drive Competition!

Sponsorship Opportunities

Title Sponsor

Logo on website & printed promotions

Company banner displayed at event

Recognition throughout the event

Address attendees at start of event

Lead-up advertising and listing as the Title Sponsorship

Post-event Ad/Media coverage

60-second commercial played prior to event start

Premier Sponsor

Logo on website & printed promotions

Company banner displayed at event

60-second commercial played prior to event start

Corporate Sponsor

Logo on website & printed promotions

60-second commercial played prior to event start

Partner Sponsor

Logo on website & printed promotions

Want to sponsor the 2024 competition? Contact us today!

Caitlin Sheets


Michelle Reed