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A Waterville program that helps young entrepreneurs bring their businesses to life will expand after receiving a grant through the state's Coworking Development Fund.
Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space was one of 16 coworking businesses in 12 communities to be awarded a share of $200,000 in grants from the Department of Economic and Community Development fund last month.
The "major focus" of Bricks' award will be its flagship incubator, Jumpstart, which guides college-age business founders through the process of launching their business. Besides offering shared work space, Bricks, at 10 Water St. in the Hathaway Creative Center, also features technology-focused programming, including Central Maine Tech Night and Central Maine Programmers’ Group.
Bricks owner RJ Anzelc said the $20,000 two-year grant will also be used for monthly events focused on innovation and entrepreneurship and continuing to develop "rich partnerships with our local economic development organizations and academic institutions."
Jumpstart participants, initially students from Colby and Thomas colleges, are guided through a curriculum that includes mentoring and other elements that help them design and develop a product, gain their first customers, connect with business development resources and services throughout Maine, and raise money.
The program was founded by Anzelc, and Nick Rimsa, co-creator of Eariously, a startup app that turns text into audio. The program was featured in the Sept. 2 edition of Mainebiz, and Anzelc and Rimsa are 2019 Mainebiz Next List honorees.
The grant money will strengthen Jumpstart's capacity to support additional participants, increase the total value of funding awarded to participating startups and accelerate their revenues, according to a news release from the Central Maine Growth Council.
The Coworking Development Fund, which was revived in the 2019-20 state budget, awarded grants in November using a competitive application process. A DECD news release announcing the awards said all 16 recipients support the fund’s goals of strengthening opportunities for entrepreneurship; stimulating innovation; and addressing regional market demand for affordable work environments with communication, information sharing and networking opportunities. Grant amounts varied and the $20,000 Bricks got was the highest amount one could be for.
“In just 18 months, Bricks has cultivated a community of technologists, developers, business leaders, and innovators in downtown Waterville," Anzelc said. "We are thrilled by the opportunity to expand our community and offer deeper venture growth resources.”
Bricks "has a strong focus on innovation and technology stemming from Anzelc’s background as a software developer and from the momentum created within the emerging technology, innovation and knowledge-based economy in greater Waterville," the CMGC release said.
Anzelc and Rimsa "are spectacular entrepreneurship role models and mentors – they apply the same innovation and determination to their startups as they do to the startups of Jumpstart members,” said Garvan D. Donegan, director of planning and economic development at CMGC.
“Their experience growing businesses in downtown Waterville has translated into an incredible coworking space and business accelerator which attracts, recruits, and retains top talent in the central Maine region and strengthens our emerging technology and knowledge-based economic hub.”
Jumpstart cofounder' Nick Rimsa's app, Eariously, which turns text into audio, won Tuesday's Big Gig pitch contest in Orono. There's one more round of the contest, in February, before a finale in April. Big Gig is a partnership of businesses, universities, nonprofits and communities that holds free pitch-offs every other month.from October through April, with a finale that offers a $5,000 grand prize.
The October winner was Kim Slininger, whose startup Spirit Warrior, is an an equine therapy program to help rehabilitate veterans suffering from PTSD. The next Big Gig pitch-off is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Geaghan's Tasting Room, Brewer.
Rimsa said that Eariously has initially launched to a small audience. "And our listeners are using the product quite a bit more than we ever would’ve anticipated, which is tremendously exciting," he said.
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