PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A Peoria business incubator is training its fourth class of entrepreneurs.

In April, Distillery Labs selected five Peoria area businesses for its free seven-week gBeta accelerator program for startup business founders. The course is in its third week.

“You know, it’s really exciting. Each cohort gets progressively more and more competitive and I think this very much rings true for this newest pool… We have a mix of different industries, different types of founders and different stages of business that they’re all in,” said Danielle Scarzello, program manager of gBeta Distillery Labs.

The program is unique because there is no equity exchange, meaning the founders don’t have to give up a piece of their business in exchange.

“Unlike other accelerator programs where there may be an investment made in exchange for some equity in the company, we recognize that most startups, especially at this phase, aren’t quite ready to start talking about equity exchange change or even investment quite yet,” said Scarzello.

The entrepreneurs will participate in one-on-one sessions with Scarzello and weekly “Lunch and Learn” sessions, each focused on a specific business topic.

“So Distillery Labs really works to get entrepreneurs and business founders comfortable in front of pitching to investors. We also really work with other mentors in the area to help them grow their business while they’re working on the vision and working in their business as well. So we really look to provide that educational piece as well as engagement piece,” said Scarzello.

For six of the seven weeks, they will participate in mentor swarms, where they meet five community mentors for 15 to 20 minutes each.

“Then we switch it up and we do something called an investor swarm. So each of these five founders will get an opportunity to pitch to investors and get feedback on their pitch in real-time,” said Scarzello.

The fourth cohort program ends on June 2.

Entrepreneurs from Distillery Labs’ spring 2023 and fall 2023 cohorts will showcase their businesses to the community at the Peoria Riverfront Museum on June 28. Scarzello said it will be similar to a “Shark Tank” experience.