Finalists have been selected in the 2013 Strolling of the Heifers Vermont Business Plan Competition, which offers a total of $60,000 in prizes.
The 14 finalists, chosen by a statewide panel of judges, were chosen on the basis of business prospectuses submitted during the first phase of the contest. They will now prepare detailed business plans and will make presentations at the final judging session on June 5.
The competition is a collaboration of Strolling of the Heifers, a Brattleboro-based local foods advocacy organization, and Vermont Technical College, with additional partnership contributions by Vermont Small Business Development Center, Southern Vermont Community Action, and Vermont Interactive Television.
The competition features three divisions: one for existing businesses, one for new businesses and one for business plans by college students.
The finalists are as follows:
New businesses: Susan Monahan of Montgomery Center, Gabriel O’Malley of Waterbury, Bonnie Paris of Lyndonville, Peter Winslow of Jamaica, and one contestant opting out of publicity.
Existing businesses: Patricia Austin, Wild Flour Vermont Bakery, Brattleboro; Kara Fitzgerald, Evening Song Farm, Cuttingsville; Calley Hastings, Fat Toad Farm, Brookfield; Dan Roscioli, Pastabilities, Williston, and one contestant opting out of publicity.
The student competitors are Naomi Fifield of Franklin, Meg Urie of Craftsbury Common, Connor Killigrew of Putney, and AnnaJo Smith of New Haven.
Recognizing that some entrepreneurs wish to keep the details of their plans confidential, the competition is run privately, with materials kept secure and confidential. Judging sessions are not open to the public. For these reasons each contestant was given the opportunity to opt out of publicity at this stage for competitive reasons. Some of the listed contestants may have additional partners involved in their project, as well.
The competition received nearly 120 registrations resulting in 104 completed initial applications, of which 60 submitted the required first-round business prospectuses. From these, the 14 finalists were selected.
“We are thrilled this year to have expanded the competition to be statewide and to have finalists from all regions,” said Orly Munzing, founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers. “Agriculture and food are key sectors for keeping Vermont’s economy vital, and it is great to see so much innovation going on in our state.”
Final presentations, lasting up to 12 minutes per finalist with an additional 10 minutes for questions, will take place on the morning of June 5 at the Marlboro College Graduate School. Winners will be announced that afternoon.
Immediately following the final awards presentation, finalists in all categories will have an opportunity to network with investors, entrepreneurs, bankers, educators and others who are attending the Strolling of the Heifers Slow Living Summit, and all finalists will be invited to attend the Summit, which takes place June 5-7.
Finalists will have access to assistance in preparing their business plans and presentations from Vermont Small Business Development Center and Southeast Vermont Community Action. Each finalist will also receive a copy of “The Plan: A Step-By-Step Business Plan Workbook” from VSBDC.
The competition was open to for-profit businesses throughout Vermont. New and existing businesses will compete in separate categories, and there is a student division as well. Existing businesses are defined as those who have operated for 6 months or more and have revenue up to $500,000. New businesses are in the early concept stage or in operation for less than 6 months, with minimal revenue. The student category was open to any student or team of students enrolled at a Vermont college-level institution.
Judges selected finalists based on such criteria as: likelihood of success and job creation (direct or indirect). For instance, will the proposed business or expansion create new jobs opportunities, or positively affect other businesses such as suppliers or distributors, or make an ancillary impact such as drawing tourists to the area?
A total of 18 community members volunteer as judges for the competition. Each judge sits on a six-member panel, which is responsible for reviewing and rating submissions and selecting finalists in one of the four designated subdivisions of the competition. The judges represent multiple business sectors including finance, agriculture and food processing.
Strolling of the Heifers, based in Brattleboro, Vermont, was founded in 2001 with the goal of helping to save and sustain family farms by connecting people with healthy local food. Annually in June, it presents the Strolling of the Heifers Parade, in which heifer calves and other farm animals, bedecked with flowers, are led up Brattleboro’s Main Street. When it’s over, the crowd follows the parade to the Slow Living Expo for food, entertainment, education, and fun. Both the parade and expo and the main financial vehicle that support the year round initiatives that support the mission of Strolling of the Heifers. Annually, Strolling of the Heifers also presents the Slow Living Summit conference in Brattleboro focused on sustainable economies, communities and policies. The annual farm/food business plan competition began in 2011 as a local contest organized in partnership with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, with a vision to expand statewide. On the web: www.strollingoftheheifers.com.
Vermont Technical College is the only public institution of higher learning in Vermont whose mission is applied education. One of the five Vermont State Colleges, Vermont Tech serves students from throughout Vermont, New England, and beyond at its two residential campuses in Williston and Randolph Center, regional campuses in Brattleboro and Bennington and at six nursing sites located throughout the state. Our academic programs encompass a wide range of engineering technology, agricultural, health, and business fields that are vital to producing the knowledge workers need most by employers in the state and in the region. On the web: www.vtc.edu.