The Bank Tank

Pitch Your Business Idea. And you could win $20,000!

Fortress Bank continues to recognize the importance of small business owners in our communities and the positive impact they have on our local economies. Our mission is to empower fellow visionaries and small business owners to fulfill their dreams.

Fortress Bank Tank Contest is our version of Shark Tank, where any current business or upstart can pitch their business vision for a chance to win $20,000. Elyce Billany, Fortress Marketing Director, will be hosting the event. Elyce’s side-hustle business was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank.

The pitch contest will take place on February 22, 2024, from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, at a location to be determined. The pitch contest will start after music and drinks in front of a live audience. The winner will be announced at the end of the night. This event is open to the public.

To attend this event as part of our live audience, please look out for more details coming soon!

Submissions for applications are now closed for 2023. 2024 submission details will be coming out soon.

Bank Tank In The News

Check out the 2022 Bank Tank event featured in the news!

WQAD New 8

WQAD News 8


25 News



You’re invited to a special night of spirited competition. Attendance is first come first serve and seating is limited.


$20,000 to an existing or start-up small business with a bold vision looking to launch a product or service or expand a current product or service.


  • Applicant must be 18 years of age or older
  • If you are a small business owner looking to launch a new product/service or looking to expand your business and wish for an opportunity to present at our Fortress Bank Tank Pitch Contest, please complete the video submission (detailed below)
  • Applicants must live or do business in the following market areas – Quad Cities, Central Illinois, Western Illinois or Des Moines, IA
  • Business must be for-profit
  • If chosen for the next round you will be required to submit a business plan
  • Applicants do not have to be a customer of Fortress Bank to participate
  • Fortress Bank employees and Fortress Bank Board of Directors are ineligible


  • Applicants are asked to submit an online application
  • Each application will include, name, name of business (or idea), details of your business or concept, and what you will use the money for
  • Also, please follow us on the following social media platforms
  • Facebook: @fortressbanktank @bankfortress
  • Instagram: @Fortressbank
  • Your applications will stay confidential unless you are chosen as a finalist
  • If you are chosen as a finalist, we may promote you and/or your business/business idea on our website and social media platforms
  • A selection committee will screen all applications and (3) three applicants will be selected to pitch their bold vision

Process and notification

  • A selection committee will screen all applications and (3) three applicants will be selected to pitch their bold vision
  • Final applicants will be asked to submit final business plans prior to pitching on February 8th
  • Applications open on July 31st and close on Monday, October 2, 2023
  • It is difficult to obtain detailed information about the selection committee’s decisions about the applications eventually chosen, so you should not anticipate detailed feedback if your business is not selected
  • In true Shark Tank style the live presentations will be no longer than 10 minutes. Presentations will be timed and once a presentation has reached its limit, the presenter will be asked to stop immediately
  • Participants will take part in a brief Q & A with a panel of local successful business owners
  • The panel will then score based on four categories (idea, business plan, presentation and financials). They will deliberate and select a winner that night.
  • Selected finalists will receive food, drink and accommodation provided by Fortress

Fortress Bank has additional small business resources to help you manage and grow your business.

If you would like additional resources or have any questions, please contact moc.ssertrofknab@knatknabeht.

The Bank Tank – Apply Now!

Submissions for applications are now closed. 2023 submissions will be open on July 31st.

Max. file size: 50 MB.


Lee Garlach

Owner of Fortress Bank
Lee is the Chairman and CEO of Fortress Bank and principal shareholder, key organizer and President of the Bank’s parent company, First State Bancorporation, Inc. Lee not only worked as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve, but spent much of his entrepreneurial career owning and running a beer distributorship with his wife, Jenny, which they successfully sold prior to 2008. Being an entrepreneur, he also has considerable experience in the merger, acquisition and operations of small business. Supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in our communities is the reason he founded Fortress Bank.

Kent Pilcher

Owner of Estes Construction
Kent Pilcher is president and owner of Estes Construction, the Davenport-based regional construction and contracting firm known for its strong corporate culture and social responsibility. Beyond the Community Foundation’s board, Pilcher serves on the boards of Q2030, Palmer College of Chiropractic, and the YMCA of the Iowa Mississippi Valley, among others. He and his wife, Judi, are generous contributors to causes across the community.

Chuck Weaver

Owner of WeaverVentures
Chuck earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management from Bradley University, and received his law degree from DePaul University. He then joined his family’s Kentucky Fried Chicken business and operated their 30 restaurants. His reputation for operations and employee development led to the position of President of the American Kentucky Fried Chicken Franchisee Association. Chuck has been active in real estate construction as well as an investor in start-up businesses. He has been involved in more than 50 Limited Liability Companies.

Andrea Belk Olson

Owner of Pragmadik
Andrea began her career at a tech startup fresh out of college. She helped build a company from $10k in seed monies to a multi-million dollar organization in only 8 years. Andrea then moved onto a new role as the first female corporate executive at a $700m global manufacturing company, leading digital strategy, marketing & communications. Founding the first customer-centricity and behavioral science consulting firm in Iowa, she now consults and serves as a fractional executive with a wide range of multi-billion dollar organizations. Andrea is the executive producer of two TEDx programs in the midwest, and serves as a speaker coach and consultant for other TEDx programs across the country.

Lisa Wertzbaugher

Owner of Wertzbaugher Consulting
Lisa Wertzbaugher has 15+ years of progressive business development and sales experience. She has worked in service industries, medical device, and manufacturing. She now manages her own consulting practice primarily assisting companies develop and deploy growth strategies. She has experience in sales training, executive coaching, strategic planning, marketing, transition planning, and selling companies. In addition, she serves on the Tube and Pipe Advisory Board and the Board of Directors for Fabricators and Manufacturers, Intl. Lisa also owns Wertzbaugher Services, a welding and fabrication business, with her husband, Jason.