In 2015 Main Street's Business Enhancement Committee developed the Main Street Skowhegan Savings Entrepreneur Challenge to spur economic development.
The winner of the first challenge—Amanda Clark, owner of the Maine Barkery, which makes all-natural dog treats from locally sourced ingredients—received a $20,000 incentive package that included a $10,000 forgivable loan from leading sponsor and partner Skowhegan Savings Bank plus numerous other benefits (see below).
As the first Entrepreneur Challenge winner, Clark used the program to purchase a commercial oven and refrigeration. The equipment helps her produce her products 40 percent faster, which has supported online sales and allowed her to more than triple the number of stores that carry her products.
Clark went from 12 to 41 wholesale accounts in less than one year after winning the challenge. She continues to serve her online and wholesale customers, and she is currently working with a distributor to expand outside of Maine.
Clark's $20,000 package included all of the following:
- $10,000 forgivable loan from Skowhegan Savings Bank
- Account services from Skowhegan Savings Bank
- Bookkeeping services from Tax Pro Inc.
- Carpentry services from Dionne and Son Builders
- One-year free membership with the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce
- Legal consulting from Perkins, Townsend, Shay & Talbot, Public Attorneys
- Three months of internet access and up to two phone lines from Bee Line Cable
- One-hour photo session with Knight Vision Photography
- Reduced rent at 134 Water Street, offered by B&J Properties
- Four hours of marketing and public relations consultating from Nuf Sed Communications
- Press release promotion
- Facebook promotion
- Grant fiscal sponsorship
- Free QuickBooks educational seminar from community partners
Ginny’s Natural Corner
Virginia Jewell is planning to expand her health foods store, Ginny’s Natural Corner. Concerned about Somerset County health statistics, Jewell intends to offer educational services and networking opportunities, including cooking courses to show families how to prepare healthy foods. Jewell also plans to expand sales to include healthy soups, sandwiches, and wraps. As a runner-up, Jewell received two hours of consulting from H&R Block of Skowhegan; five hours of consulting from Kyes-Carpenter Insurance; a new laptop from Computer Improvements; and on-site review of profit margin and other recommendations from the selection committee consultants.
Justin Richard was preparing to launch Downtown Delivery, an affordable restaurant-delivery service with a secure web-based ordering platform and built-in marketing tool. As a runner-up, Richard received legal consulting services from Perkins, Townsend, Shay & Talbot, Public Attorneys, and business consulting from Sam Hight of Hight Ford. Update: Richard started his delivery service in Farmington in January 2017—read about it here—and he's planning to expand to Skowhegan in the future. We're glad we were able to help him on his journey, and we wish him the best!
Nancy Blaisdell Baxter started MeshEarth, an independent film company that celebrates rural Maine living and community connections through video portraits of people teaching life skills and lost arts. Baxter is passionate about promoting Maine and wants to use her films to engage local people and attract visitors to the Skowhegan area. Baxter's first film, Sox and the Country, was scheduled to be released summer 2016. As a runner-up, Baxter received website design and development by Your Designs Unlimited.