Stroll expands Farm/Food Business Plan Competition

BRATTLEBORO — Vermont Technical College and Strolling of the Heifers have teamed up to present the 2013 Vermont Farm/Food Business Plan Competition, offering $60,000 in total prizes.

The competition, an outgrowth of regional collaboration between the two organizations in 2012, seeks to encourage new and expanding farm, food, and forestry business development throughout Vermont.

“In the process of developing their business plans, contestants will gain practical experience in analyzing their business, their markets and their ideas,” said Steve Paddock, director of the Vermont Tech Enterprise Center Business Incubator, one of the contest's organizers.

Finalists will have access to free assistance from the Vermont Small Business Development Centers or Southeast Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) in preparing their final business plan and presentations.

Awards will be presented June 5 at Marlboro College Graduate Center, and finalists will have an opportunity to meet investors, entrepreneurs, bankers, educators, and others attending the Strolling of the Heifers Slow Living Summit, which begins that day.

“It has been our dream to expand this contest to the whole state of Vermont, and this is a great step,” said Orly Munzing, founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers. She added that both organizations hope to further enhance the contest in the coming years with regional divisions and a statewide grand prize.

In this year's contest, new and existing businesses will compete in separate categories, and students have their own division.

Existing businesses are defined as those which have operated for six months or more, and take in up to $500,000 in revenue. New businesses are defined as those in the early concept stage, or having been in operation for less than six months, and earning minimal revenue.

The student category is open to any student or team of students enrolled at a Vermont college-level institution.

Entries must involve some aspect of farming, forestry, food processing, food distribution, food packaging, or food retailing (including restaurants).

Up to five finalists will be selected in the new and existing categories, and four finalists will be chosen in the student category. Finalists who complete the application process will receive a share of the prize money.

In each of the new and existing categories, there is a $10,000 first prize, $8,000 second prize and $5,000 third prize, with two runner-up awards of $1,500.

In the student category, first prize is $4,000, second prize $2,000, and there are two runner-up awards of $1,000.

Finalists in the 2012 competitions organized by Strolling of the Heifers and Vermont Technical College are ineligible to compete in 2013, but may return to the competition in future years. Contestants in 2012 who were not selected as finalists are invited to apply, as are all 2011 contestants.

Contest entries will be judged on such criteria as likelihood of success, and direct or indirect job creation.

Past winners

Past winners of the competition were Lucas Farrell and Louisa Conrad, owners of Big Picture Farm in Townshend. Farrell and Conrad won top honors in 2011, and have since significantly expanded their business, which markets goat milk taffy. They've also won the Gold Award for best confection at the 2012 Sofi Summer Fancy Food Show.

Other past winners include Kelt and Kristina Naylor of Side Hill Farm of Brattleboro, The Gleanery restaurant of Putney, Deer Ridge Farm of Guilford, Raven Hill Farm of Braintree, and Freedom Foods of Randolph.

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