When does a good idea become a “great” idea? When it’s a hit, and the Municipality of Huron East is undertaking a creative contest, the first of its kind in Huron County, to help budding entrepreneurs along the road to success.
“Win this Space”, an award winning initiative first launched by the Uxbridge BIA in 2013, will provide the multi-faceted leg-up that every new business owner needs: financial assistance, marketing, advertising, education, networking, and mentorship.
The grand prize is one year’s free rent for a selected storefront on the main street of either, Seaforth or Brussels, together with hundreds of dollars worth of in-kind professional services from “Win This Space” sponsors.
Canadian citizens (19 years or older) from across Ontario are invited to submit their business ideas, in the hopes of being selected as a candidate. If chosen, they along with a guest will attend the kick-off event at the Seaforth Golf Club in late April to learn more about the contest.
Chosen candidates will be required to attend free educational workshops sponsored by the Small Business Enterprise Centre:
- How to Start a Business & Develop a Business Plan
- Developing a Marketing & Promotional Strategy
- Taking care of business – Financial Statements
Each workshop will involve assignments, research, and coaching on how to create a successful Business Model. When complete, the entrants will submit their business plans to the Huron East Economic Development Department to be reviewed by the “Win This Space” judging panel. Judges will chose the top five candidates. These finalists will attend the Finale where they’ll have the chance to pitch their idea and business model for a chance to win rent for a year at one of several locations in downtown Seaforth or Brussels.
Judges for “Win This Space” are:
- Jan Hawley, Huron East Economic Development Officer/Project Coordinator
- Alison Lobb, Small Business Enterprise Centre Consultant & Project Trainer
- Maureen Agar, Community Leader & Seaforth BIA Director
- Brenda Campbell, Coldwell Banker Realtor & Seaforth BIA Director
- Chris Lee, Business Owner & Consultant
- Carolyn Parks Mintz, Author, Journalist, Freelance Writer, Speaker
- Paul Nichol, Huron East/Brussels Community Development Trust Director
- Neil Tam, Huron East/Seaforth Community Development Trust Director
“We hope to inspire someone to become an entrepreneur,” says Jan Hawley. “Win This Space will help give a new business owner a ‘leg-up’ eliminating some of the big start-up costs incurred in the first year. This initiative is evidence that the Municipality of Huron East is serious about recruiting new ventures,” she goes on. “We are definitely open for business.”
Huron East Mayor Bernie MacLellan sees “Win this Space” as another step in the evolution of how to help out start-up endeavours. “The Brussels Business & Cultural Centre was our first step forward,” says MacLellan, “offering affordable rental sites. Win This Space is a similar concept, but with more advantages – less overhead, frontage right on a main street, exposure, and marketing help.”
“What I like best about this programme,” says Paul Nichol, Economic Development Manager with the Huron Business Development Corporation, “is that it’s thinking outside the box, and it’s a more aggressive approach to recruitment of business. Huron East is adopting a best practice in the form of an award-winning project to see how it will play out in our neighbourhood.”
“I would love to see young entrepreneurs get involved, perhaps someone moving back to the area. This could spread like wildfire,” says Nichol. “Other communities will be watching. It’s all about buzz. Buzz is good.”
Coldwell Banker Realtor Brenda Campbell particularly likes that, besides filling a vacant storefront and helping a business owner, local residents will benefit as well. “And it’s difficult to start a business from scratch,” says Campbell. “Win This Space eliminates a portion of the financial stress.”
“This undertaking is going to bring attention and focus to innovation and to new enterprise,” states Business Consultant Chris Lee. “And it will rally the community around the idea of originality and small business as economic drivers. In addition to the financial benefits,” Lee adds, “Win This Space will provide mentoring for the new business owner. Having someone to call upon for advice around decisions is an essential asset.”
“It’s the right time and the right place for this type of project,” says Educator Alison Lobb. ‘And Jan Hawley is the right person to pull it off. Win This Space will encourage people from outside this municipality to consider Huron East as their new location,” she goes on. “It will highlight the benefits of having a dedicated retail or business outlet.”
“We at the Small Business Enterprise Centre are pleased to be providing the workshops that will educate contestants regarding their business plan and the various forms of paperwork inherent in a sole proprietorship,” adds Lobb. “And, by the way, it will be fun! – for the judges, the contestants, and the public, who will be watching.”
Journalist Carolyn Parks Mintz sees “Win This Space” as a win-win-win. “All those entering the contest,” says Parks Mintz, “will come away with new business knowledge and skills as well as new contacts. Secondly, a community, the municipality and the county will benefit, and thirdly, Huron East’s “space launch” will most certainly help the winner’s new business take off.”
Of course, this wouldn’t have happened with out the support of its funders, namely the Municipality of Huron East, the County of Huron, the Huron East Seaforth & Brussels Community Development Trusts, the Seaforth Business Improvement Area Association, and the businesses that are donating cash and in-kind services to the winner.
“Win This Space” is now open to all budding entrepreneurs, who would like to bring their ideas forward. The official kick-off event and candidate selection will be held in late April at the Seaforth Golf Club followed by three separate workshops (dates to be announced), with the Finale being held in June when the winner will be announced.
Anyone who has considered putting their new business idea to the test, who would like to expand and relocate a current business, or who has been running a home-based operation should get in on this amazing opportunity to take the next step in achieving their goal. Huron East wants to hear all about it!