Women, Work, and Community recently announced the winners of its Downtown Dollars marketing mini-grant competition for small businesses in Aroostook, Piscataquis, Washington, and Hancock counties.
The County Co-op and Farm Store on Main Street in Houlton received first prize of $400. The business is a consumer cooperative with more than 130 members operating a retail outlet open to the public. Their start-up in September 2014 included strong branding, monthly member newsletters, a website and social media marketing, and the Downtown Dollars grant will enable them to add traditional marketing methods with a monthly print advertisement in the local paper.
Second prize of $300 was awarded to Anchorspace. The marketing mini-grant will help with the cost of signage for the new business, which opened on April 1, 2015 to provide flexible, professional, and affordable office and conference space for growing businesses and nonprofits in the Bar Harbor area.
Anchorspace founder Nicole Oullette says,“Women, Work, and Community’s New Ventures program is how I started my first business, Breaking Even Communications. When I started my second business, I couldn’t believe WWC was there for me again. As an entrepreneur, it’s nice to know your community is behind you. This grant allows me to get a better sign than I could afford, which will not only hold up to the elements but also give a professional impression.”
Third prize of $200 went to 44 North Coffee, who will use the mini-grant for professional photography to promote their expansion from downtown Deer Isle into a second café and retail location in downtown Stonington. Owners Melissa Raftery and Megan Wood note, “This new location allows us to continue to contribute and revitalize our downtown community and serve our coffee to a wider audience.”
Three awardees were selected from a strong group of applicants throughout the northern Maine and Downeast regions. Jane Searles, Regional Manager for WWC’s North Central region, says,“The best part of having monies available to provide grants to business owners is that everyone wins! The business owners are able to move their marketing efforts forward, and it keeps the local economy in our downtown areas vibrant and growing along with the businesses.”
Jill Doucette, owner of Aroostook Photo Services in Van Buren, lent her expertise as one of the members of the review committee. “Being a past recipient of the marketing mini grants as well as an Ambassador for WWC, I see the potential that these grants have on small business in Maine. Not only is it a wonderful financial boost, it helps practice grant writing skills and helps business owners realize the importance of having a comprehensive business plan.”
WWC’s Downtown Dollars marketing mini-grant competition was especially targeted at communities affiliated with the Maine Downtown Center. Criteria for the contest included being in business five years or less, having five or fewer employees, having gross annual sales of $500,000 or less, and presenting a compelling marketing project to support business growth. Support for WWC’s partnership with Maine Downtown Center and the Downtown Dollars mini-grants program was provided in part from The Betterment Fund.