Why Louisville entrepreneurs can’t afford to miss applying for this year’s Vogt Awards

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Community Foundation of Louisville’s Vogt Invention & Innovation Awards offers an opportunity for early-stage businesses to receive $25,000 in non-dilutive grant funding, participation in a 10-week startup accelerator program, coaching, mentorship, strategic introductions, and recognition, all designed to boost the growth of their business.

Monique Kuykendoll Quarterman, one of Kentucky’s foremost innovators in the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, leads the Vogt Awards selection committee for the second year.

Monique is the Executive Director of KY Innovation at the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. We sat down with her to discuss what she most enjoyed about last year’s program and why entrepreneurs shouldn’t pass up their chance to apply.

As Chair of the Vogt Awards selection committee, what does your role entail?

My goal is connection and education — education on the importance of providing equitable access to capital, but also connecting on the value and legacy of the Vogt Awards program as a sustainable philanthropic instrument for startup economic development, and the wonderful intent it was created with.

This year, I’m looking forward to continuing to connect with the investment, business, and startup communities.

What was the best part of your experience as Chair last year?

The best part was seeing the companies grow and how accomplished they were at Demo Day. They are so full of hope and success by the time they reach that day. It marks a milestone not only for those founders but also a milestone for our city — we’re here to support these companies in reaching their next level.

What surprised you the most about the process?

What surprised me was how hard it was to choose six!

The Vogt Awards is a celebration that goes beyond the selected founder recipients. It’s a full celebration in that we get such a great response every year from all areas of our community. All businesses have an amazing positive benefit on their neighborhoods and families.

While we are very grateful to select six winners that go on to participate in Demo Day, it’s truly a wonderful and difficult task to figure out which ones rise to the top. If you weren’t selected last year, I encourage you to apply again!

Now that you’ve been through the process, has your perspective shifted on why the Vogt Awards are so important to the entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Last year, my perspective on the value and impact of the Vogt Awards was very county- and region-specific. I’ve known for many years how important the Vogt Awards has been in my community, but I’ve learned over the past year how valuable — and immensely significant and impactful — the Vogt Awards has been for the state and the nation.

That is something I’m so proud of.

What sets this program apart from other accelerator and funding programs?

The Vogt Awards are centered and interwoven in [the] community; I credit the Community Foundation of Louisville for that. Early-stage entrepreneurs can make valuable connections they would not have access to otherwise.

Applications are reviewed by successful entrepreneurs and investors directly in our community. These applications are created by the best and brightest startup founders from almost every community in the county. But also, the program operators are uniquely invested in the startup ecosystem — including [Vogt Awards] Program Director Lisa Bajorinas. Her leadership role in our innovation ecosystem in Kentucky brings so much value to the program.

Special thanks to the wonderful Heuser family contribution and the Community Foundation of Louisville for creating the Vogt Awards. We, from a startup community perspective, are doing this for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs, which is really a neat model to be a part of.

Why would you encourage early-stage entrepreneurs to apply this year?

I encourage entrepreneurs to apply because the Vogt Awards gets better and better every year. Not only when it comes to making sure that we have the best-in-class equitable investment processes (with a nod to Vissionaireum), but we are also constantly pushing the needle when it comes to what we can offer in the community to set up the Vogt companies for success.

To be championing entrepreneurship on a state level and trusted to elevate some of the best companies coming out of Louisville — it is an honor, and I’m proud to be part of it.

Want to apply to this year’s Vogt Awards? Learn more at www.vogtawards.com.