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Updated: January 30, 2023

Mini-grants will help Ellsworth entrepreneurs, small businesses

Courtesy / Kyle Lamont/Good to Go Studio A round of $1,000 mini-grants will go to emerging entrepreneurs and small business owners in Ellsworth.

A round of $1,000 mini-grants will go to emerging entrepreneurs and small business owners in Ellsworth.

Eleven mini-grants will be available for start-up or expansion projects to help entrepreneurs and support economic opportunities. 

A local nonprofit called Heart of Ellsworth partnered with six community banks – Bangor Federal Credit Union, First National Bank, Franklin Savings Bank, Machias Savings Bank, Camden National Bank and Bar Harbor Bank & Trust – to launch the third rendition of the Downtown Grants Program. 

“I’m so excited that Heart of Ellsworth can facilitate programs like this and that I can serve on the jury for this third year of the Downtown Grants program,” Tracy Scheckel, a Heart of Ellsworth board member and one of the 2023 Downtown Grants jurors, said in a news relese. “One of the reasons Ellsworth thrives is initiatives like this where our area banks come together to invest in and support our Downtown District.”  

This year’s program aims to support entrepreneurs, small businesses, innovators and start-ups. All downtown Ellsworth business owners and area entrepreneurs are eligible to apply. 

This grant cycle seeks to support potential projects such as, but not limited to, hiring a consultant or advisor, developing alternative revenue streams, marketing/logo/brand development, website creation, a workshop or mentoring opportunity, hiring an architect, engineer, or other specialist and purchasing technology-related tools

In 2021, the program awarded $11,000 in grants. Twenty-four downtown businesses responded to the open call for proposals, with 11 projects funded. In 2020, the program awarded $5,500 in grants. Eleven downtown businesses responded to the open call for proposals, with 12 projects proposed and seven funded.

Romano cited a collaborative project by Fogtown Brewing Co. as among the most impactful projects in 2021. Fogtown hired Ellsworth producer Kyle Lamont of Good To Go Studios to produce a video featuring downtown Ellsworth and a demonstration of how customers and businesses could engage in safe COVID-19 protocols while still making a valuable product available. 

“Not only did this project impact two businesses but it brought folks downtown,” said Romano.

“By supporting economic development and the stabilization of current and future businesses, the Ellsworth community is saying, ‘We value you, we support small businesses and we want our downtown to be a sustainable place for entrepreneurs and existing businesses to grow, stay and thrive.’”

“In our third year, 2023, we picked up another community bank to further compound the investment of the five returning banks, making this our most extensive grant cycle to date,” she said. ”While executing the 2023 program, are already exploring ideas to grow the program in 2024.”

A challenge for the program is deciding which entrepreneurs and small businesses qualify, particularly those from other communities that have asked if they are eligible, said Romano. 

“While many of the Heart of Ellsworth programs are free and open to all, we are responsible for being good stewards of local bank resources and our mission, to bolster downtown Ellsworth and the commercial district,” she said. “So we ask potential applicants to consider their application this way – are you conducting business in downtown Ellsworth or collaborating with a current downtown Ellsworth business or have plans to move your business downtown or prove that their project will impact and enhance the commercial district?”

The program is one component of the organization’s entrepreneurial ecosystem work that positively impacts the downtown district. 

“We are letting folks in our region and beyond know that Ellsworth is a supportive environment for small businesses and entrepreneurs alike,” Romano said.

Applications are open online until Feb. 17. Click here to learn more.

To apply, interested applicants should submit a funding proposal, business plan if available and other information they feel would be helpful to support their funding request. All information will be kept confidential and only used to determine grant recipients. Jurors will use a score-based system to determine awards.

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