Win This Space rolls out
Heather Salovaara, Pembroke's economic development officer, shows the five downtown properties up for grabs in the Win This Space contest, which launched Monday. Entrepreneurs are given the chance to win the use of one of these spaces for six months rent free, within a two year lease, plus other business supports.
The second annual Win This Space contest is now underway.
It offers hopeful entrepreneurs the chance to win a commercial space in Pembroke rent free for six months on a two-year lease, plus a prize package of items to help get their businesses a boost.
On Monday at City Hall, six of the eight contestants who had applied before the Feb. 27 deadline to take part and their supporters attended a briefing session where the rules of the contest were spelled out.
Heather Salovaara, the city's economic development officer, hosted this launch, and told the contestants they will have to attend three weekly training sessions in which they will learn how to write a business plan, be taught the basics of financial planning for their business and lastly, how best to advertise and promote their business.
She said the first session will be held March 12 with Colleen Sadler, business consultant with Enterprise Renfrew County, who will explain how to do business plans. The second session on March 22 will be conducted by Mike Thompson, business development officer with the Renfrew County Community Futures Development Corporation, who will walk everyone on how to do a cash flow.
On March 26, the contestants will be taken on a tour of the five available properties downtown, two of which are in The Mews, when they will have a chance to meet the landlords.
The last session, held April 5, will feature Chéla Brekon, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Algonquin College, teaching about marketing, while Sheldon Reiche will advise on legal matters.
Following these mandatory training sessions, the final submission from the contestants written in the form of a business plan is due April 15 at 4 p.m.
The plan will go before a judging panel which will score each business plan against a set of criteria and on May 7 the top contestants will be named.
On May 10, a Grand Finale will be held where the finalists will have one last chance to pitch their business idea to the judges, who will deliberate and select a grand prize winner who will be announced live that night on YourTV. The winner will then choose the space they wish from the available properties and must open their business by Sept. 10.
“You'll have four months to open your businesses,” Salovaara said. The location of the Grand Finale has yet to be determined.
In 2016, city council agreed to go forward with the economic development department's idea, which has been successful in Uxbridge and Huron East in filling vacant commercial space.
“The reason we do this is to fill vacant spaces downtown, while also encouraging people to start up new businesses,” she said. “It worked well for us last year, so we're really excited about this year.”
Stacy Taylor of Little Things Canning Company was the winner of the first Win This Space contest, and said it changed her life. She had been working her business out of her home on a part time basis before the contest came along. Tired of her full time job, she decided on a whim to enter.
“The experience was super surreal, and it can be overwhelming, but very satisfying,” she said. It is also a lot of hard work, and the four months runs out quickly. Taylor cautioned the contestants to be prepared to adjust if things don't go according to plan.
“Be aware some aspects of your business plan may not work out, but they need to be fluid,” she said. Overall, she is glad to have taken the plunge.
“This changed my life for the better,” Taylor said, noting business has been doing very well.