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September 18, 2017

Skowhegan launches second Entrepreneur Challenge

SKOWHEGAN — Skowhegan's Entrepreneur Challenge, which this year offers more than $23,000 in benefits and incentives for the winning entrepreneur, opened Friday.

The challenge requires participants to attend workshops, develop a business concept and provide planning information, then make a final pitch.

Amanda Clark, owner of The Maine Barkery, won the first challenge, in February 2016.

Clark was operating a natural dog treat business out of her home in Smithfield at the time of the contest, and moved the business to downtown Skowhegan with the $20,000 in incentives she won.

Participants in this year's challenge will attend business seminars to learn more about the nuts and bolts of starting a business, hear from small business owners about their experiences and from business professionals about insurance needs, financing options, required permits and more, according to a news release from Skowhegan Main Street.

After that, they'll craft and present their business plan to Main Street Skowhegan's Business Enhancement Committee. They must make an initial pitch in November, and finalists must make another one in January. A winner will be announced in February.

The winner must have the business in operation by June in order to get the incentive package.

The first winner, Clark, was picked from a field of four finalists from an initial 10 participants.

The challenge, developed In April 2015 by Main Street Skowhegan's Business Enhancement Committee, is designed to strengthen Skowhegan's economy and spur business development in the region, according to the release.

The committee is hosting a Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce Business after hours from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, at Skowhegan Savings Bank, 13 Elm St., for those interested in participating.

At her new location at 134 Water St. in Skowhegan, Clark was able to increase production and add retail space to sell dog treats and other locally made, healthy dog products. Since opening there in April 2016, she has increased her wholesale accounts from 12 to 41 and is working with a distributor to expand outside of Maine, according to Skowhegan Savings Bank's website.

Last year's three runners-up, Ginny's Natural Corner, Downtown Delivery and MeshEarth, all received a smaller incentive package to help boost their business, including consulting and website help.

This challenge's winning benefits package for the second challenge includes 15 incentives, including a $10,000 forgivable loan from Skowhegan Savings Bank, a partner with Skowhegan Main Street in the challenge.

Other incentives include insurance consulting; three months of payroll services; tax consulting; carpentry services; a one-year membership to the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce; computer supplies and business backup software; legal consulting; three months of Internet access and up to two phone lines; storefront sign design and development; photography services; a promotional video produced; reduced rent; and website design, marketing consultation, and promotional services from Main Street Skowhegan.

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