WILMINGTON — The Make It On Main Street business plan competition in 2018 sparked more economic activity than organizers expected.
“It seemed like a bit of a catalyst for a new energy in the city, which was great,” said Lisa Sullivan, a board member of downtown organization Wilmington Works. “You hope there will be this feeling of energy and excitement, but realistically you think you could fund any company you fund, and that’s a great result too.”
The competition invited entrepreneurs to submit their plan for a physical business between May 24 and July 16, 2018. Semi-finalists were selected, assigned a business development mentor, and asked to produce a comprehensive business plan before October 1 of the same year. After an oral presentation on Oct. 18, the plan was for one winner to land a $20,000 grant, with an opening in downtown Wilmington within the year. The judges chose two winners to split the sum.
Now having some distance from the project, Sullivan said it had been “really effective in kick-starting new economic activity”. She participated in the planning of the competition and served on the jury.
Gretchen Havreluk, economic development consultant for the city, said the competition had a snowball effect, although it didn’t work out the way she had originally planned.
“I really thought we were going to get a company on Main Street to redevelop one of these buildings,” she said, noting that $20,000 doesn’t go very far in such projects.
She said she appreciated Paul Pabst’s contribution to the making of the contest.
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Pabst, executive producer of “The Dan Patrick Show,” lives in Connecticut and has a second home in Wilmington. He donated the revenue from “Sports Jeopardy”.
Butter Mountain Bakery (formerly known as Beurremont) and 802 Fitness and Therapy split the $20,000. Both are in the old school community center. This helps keep the community center running, Havreluk said.
“So that was great,” she said.
The owners of 1a Coffee Roasters were part of a larger group looking to establish a coffee business downtown. Wilmington Works agreed to provide $10,000 from its vaults once a location was finalized.
Eventually, 1a purchased a building at 123 West Main St. Being outside of the designated downtown area, the business was ineligible for competition funds, but recently celebrated its second anniversary since opening in Wilmington.
The owners of 1a teamed up with another company to open Starfire Bakery in a nearby building earlier this year, then formed a team to buy the Old Red Mill Inn to house Valley Craft Ales and provide pizza and lodging.
“It gives a real boost to the economy,” Havreluk said.
She described being “really disappointed” when the judges decided to split the money, as it made her job more difficult. Instead of helping the finalists open up in town, she helped the three winners with more limited funds.
Paul Croutworst, owner of 802 Fitness and Therapy, said the contest “helped get it all started.” He worked from a yurt downtown and moved into the community center, where his business was introduced to other business entities interested in the space.
Understanding that splitting the $20,000 was for the greater good, Croutworst noted that $10,000 to build a gym wasn’t “a ton of money. It literally just paid for my body compensation analysis machine.
“Everyone was great,” he said. “It was a positive experience. I would do it again.”
Croutworst has had to get creative during the COVID-19 pandemic, lending members gear to use at home. He remembered teaching husbands how to adjust their wives’ backs.
Now he’s at a point where the gym has a busy schedule and he needs to find more staff to grow. The courses and therapeutic offers are specialized.
Hannah Cofiell, owner of Butter Mountain Bakery, said the contest “definitely helped me take the next big step for my business,” which started at her home. Winning the contest allowed her to move into the community center, where she uses a commercial kitchen.
“It gave me the opportunity to sell directly to customers instead of just wholesale or having to personally deliver or use other pickup locations for customers,” she said in a statement. E-mail. “The contest has also helped give my growing small business a bigger name and garner more support throughout the community among locals, second home owners and seasonal visitors. I’m so grateful for the contest and all the support I continue to have years later!”
Several winners of the business plan competition
Havreluk said she thought the city received good publicity from the contest — several news outlets covered the contest. She reported a slight increase in local option tax revenue of 1% since the competition, but she is unsure if this is a false positive because costs have increased.
Every week, she says, she receives calls from people who are interested in a building or opening a business. However, she noted, Red Fox Shop and Norton House Quilting recently closed.
“They closed for different reasons, not because of the lack of economy,” she said. “Those were just circumstances. But we still have to fill them.
Havreluk doesn’t think she would want to hold another business plan competition again. She said it is a lot of work to set up and not guaranteed to bring the desired results.
There was no initiative within Wilmington Works to hold another competition.
“But personally,” Sullivan said, “I think it worked really well. So maybe that’s something we should consider.
Sullivan said she was “thrilled” with how the contest affected the city. She also noted how Melissa Boyles, 1a and sister of Chrystal Holt, co-owner of Valley Craft Ales, is now the program coordinator for Wilmington Works.
“So there’s a lot of big, big things that happened,” Sullivan said.
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Pabst shared how Havreluk and Sullivan immediately liked his business plan competition idea.
“They had the hard work of putting this together and processing the submissions,” Pabst said.
All parties agreed that businesses should be in the interests of locals first, then skiers and tourists, Pabst said. He described all of the resulting businesses as matching this rule.
The Old Red Mill Inn is the first place Pabst stayed when he first visited Vermont from Chicago in the 1990s. He called it a “downtown showpiece.”
Valley Craft Ales serves beers and serves pizza in the former Old Red Mill Inn in Wilmington
Pabst recently stopped at the Old Red Mill Inn. Brian Holt, co-owner of 1a and Valley Craft Ales, said he told Pabst he “wouldn’t be here talking to you if you didn’t make this donation.” Who knows where I would be?
The Holts were living in Finland and visiting Amsterdam when they came across a Facebook ad for the contest. Brian said he thought nothing of it at the time, but the next day he offered to enter the contest.
“Then all of these events spilled over into all of these projects and into our full-time life in Wilmington,” he said. “We have sold all of our other properties. We’re all in Wilmington.
Prior to the contest, the couple had no connection to Wilmington. Brian said his family drove to go skiing as a child, but never stayed in town.
Initially, Brian Holt was captivated by how Wilmington reminded him of Finland. He said both places value the environment and social support.
“I’ve lived everywhere, from Helsinki to Las Vegas to California,” he said. “What I’ve observed in these 20 years of traveling around the world is that I want my kids to grow up in a place like Wilmington, where they’re not overexcited about everything that’s going on in the city. company which [are] useless.”
For now, Brian Holt said he feels “pretty confident” that the three projects on his plate are enough to keep him busy. He stressed the importance of offering “high” products and services to attract visitors to the regions.
A new generation of business owners share a philosophy that there’s “a lot for everyone,” he said. They don’t compete for customers.
“You have to have options,” said Brian Holt. “You can’t have just one place.”