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‘Make it in Wilmington’ contest is looking for business plans, ideas

Interested parties are invited to read the full rules and learn more about the project at For more details or questions, contact Meg Staloff, program coordinator at Wilmington Works, at 802-234-1433 or

WILMINGTON—If you’ve always dreamed of owning a downtown business, 2018 could be your year to do so in Wilmington, thanks to a $20,000 cash prize.

On May 24, Wilmington Works will kick off a business plan competition: “Make it on Main Street: The Wilmington Downtown Business Challenge.”

“We are very excited to showcase Wilmington as a great place to live, work, and play,” Board Chair Lisa Sullivan said in a news release. “Our historic downtown has some buildings to fill and we are looking for the right business to add to our mix.”

The competition invites entrepreneurs to submit their idea for a brick and mortar business between May 24 and July 15.

Up to five contestants will be selected as semi-finalists, assigned a business development mentor, and asked to produce a full business plan by Oct. 1.

Following a final oral presentation on Oct. 18, one lucky winner will be granted the $20,000 cash prize, with the stipulation that the winning business must then open in Wilmington’s downtown within a year of the award.

The idea for the business competition was born when long-time second-homeowner and Dan Patrick Show producer Paul Pabst had some Sports Jeopardy prize money to donate to a cause.

“I knew this would be a cool idea, to invest into the Wilmington/Deerfield Valley area,” he said in the news release. “I’ve been coming up here for two decades and this will give people all over the country a chance to know what a great area this is and one person the boost to start a business here.”

The effort soon became a collaborative affair, with Wilmington Works adding some of their own funds, along with sponsorship from myriad local businesses and organizations (including Brattleboro Savings & Loan, the town of Wilmington’s Event Fund, Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., The Deerfield Valley News, the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce, and The Richards Group).

Organizers of the “Make it on Main Street” competition say they’re not looking for just any business, but one that will add to the heart and soul of the town. The competition is open to all comers, but to score high, potential businesses must consider how their idea will serve the entire community — locals, second-homeowners, and seasonal tourists alike.

A kick-off event is scheduled for Thursday, May 24, at Memorial Hall. Following a press announcement at 4:30 p.m., prospective applicants are invited to network with other local business people and town officials before joining an “Idea Jam” for potential entrepreneurs hosted by the BDCC’s Instig8 program at 6 p.m.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #458 (Wednesday, May 9, 2018). This story appeared on page A4.

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