HOULTON – Round two of the Houlton Entrepreneur Challenge is set to start soon. The announcement was made today (Monday, April 3rd) at a regular meeting of the Houlton Rotary Club. The contest is again presented by the Town of Houlton, Southern Aroostook Development Corporation (SADC) and major financial partner Machias Savings Bank.
The first round of the program concluded in January when Volumes Book Store was selected as the winner of the inaugural Challenge. Volumes is in the process of expanding their store.
The second round of the Entrepreneur Challenge will run similarly to the first round and will include 3 Phases. It will also feature some enhancements to give contestants more opportunities to access guidance and business assistance.
The prize package for the Entrepreneur Challenge has been increased to $40,000. This includes a forgivable loan of up to $30,000. Several of the Financial Partners have contributed toward the prize for the second round.
Chris Fitzpatrick, Executive Vice President of Business Banking for Machias Savings Bank said of their continued involvement in the program, “Machias Savings Bank is happy to again be the major financial partner in this exciting endeavor. We were very pleased with the outcome of the first round of the Entrepreneur Challenge and think this second round will be even better.”
The program will kick off on Wednesday, May 17th with an information night called “Ignite The Spark” which will feature a panel discussion. The panelists will include local entrepreneurs sharing their stories and experiences to inspire those present to ignite their own spark to move forward with their business idea. Information will also be provided by the Selection Committee about the criteria they are looking for in a winner and tips for being a successful contestant in the Entrepreneur Challenge.
Another new aspect of the Challenge will be the opportunity for contestants to participate in one-on-one coaching sessions with mentor teams consisting of experienced business people. These informal sessions will allow the contestants to discuss their ideas with the mentors. The mentors will evaluate and recommend any additional assistance and resources that would be beneficial to the contestant. This assistance will be customized based on the contestant’s level of experience. The sessions will be held late May and early June.
Phase I will also involve contestants submitting a 1-2-page Concept and presenting a 5-minute Oral Pitch in front of the Selection Committee. Contestants will again need to submit a complete Business Plan for Phase II of the Challenge. Those continuing on to Phase III will be required to do a final presentation and interview with the Selection Committee before a winner is determined.
There will again be several business service prizes offered to the winner. Those are still being lined up.
“We learned a great deal from the first round of the Entrepreneur Challenge,” said Nancy Ketch, Houlton’s Community Development Director. “We have taken that information and added some enhancements to this year’s program.” Jon McLaughlin, SADC Executive Director added, “This round, we are focusing more on customized assistance. We realize someone who has been in business needs different guidance than someone just starting a new venture. The goal remains, though, to help all of the contestants be successful.”
Further information on the Houlton Entrepreneur Challenge is available on the Town’s web site at www.houlton-maine.com or SADC’s web site at www.sadcaroostook.org. Information is also available by calling Ketch at 207-521-5938 or McLaughlin at 207-521-0157.
About Town of Houlton, SADC and Machias Savings Bank:
The Town of Houlton’s Community Development Department is charged with working with area businesses and assisting creating opportunities for business growth in the Town of Houlton. Houlton is the Shiretown of Aroostook County. The Town of Houlton has a population of over 6,000 and is the service community for the Southern portion of Aroostook County as well as parts of Northern Penobscot and Northern Washington Counties. More details about the Town of Houlton can be found online at www.houlton-maine.com.
Southern Aroostook Development Corporation (SADC) is an economic enhancement organization founded in 1998 to develop and expand the economic base of Southern Aroostook County. SADC gathers business and community leaders from throughout the area to work together to help coordinate, promote and guide new business creations. More details about Southern Aroostook Development Corporation can be found online at www.sadcaroostook.org.
Machias Savings Bank is a Maine bank with 18 branches from Portland to Caribou. Based in Machias since 1869, Machias Savings Bank prides itself on exceptional banking, exceptional relationships, and exceptional customer service. More details about Machias Savings Bank can be found online at www.machiassavings.com.