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It's time to 'Pitch Your Plan': AAEDC to host business contest

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Abby Strom2 / 2

Would you like to start up your own business? Do you have plans to open another business location in the Alexandria lakes area? Are you planning on expanding your business by adding new products or services?

If you've answered yes to any of these, then the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission wants you to compete in the first-ever "Pitch Your Plan" business contest.

Pitch Your Plan is a three-phase business competition open to current business owners and entrepreneurs who present their for-profit business idea to a committee.

The contest is modeled after a similar contest that took place in Brainerd last year and again this year, said Abby Strom from the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. After reviewing information provided by the Brainerd Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission, a steering committee was formed in Alexandria with 12 business professionals, Strom said, ranging from a business consultant and attorney to the city planner and an insurance agent.

The committee then came up with the rules for the Pitch Your Plan contest and there is now a dedicated tab, labeled Pitch Your Plan, on the AAEDC's website to check out the rules of play.

There is also a dedicated Pitch Your Plan Facebook page and Instagram account.

How it works

The contest will be done in three phases. In the first phase, applicants need to answer six questions online that explain the focus or niche of the business.

"We want everyone to apply and then up to 10 people will advance to the second phase," said Strom.

The deadline for the first phase is Jan. 25. A panel of judges will look through the submissions and then choose the businesses that will advance to phase two.

Those businesses will then get the opportunity to work with a business consultant to build and develop their business plan, Strom said. The applicants will have the chance to attend a business boot camp of sorts during this phase, she said. The deadline for applicants to submit their proposed business plan as part of the second phase is March 15.

After that, three finalists will be chosen to advance to the third and final phase of the competition, where they will pitch their plan in a style modeled after the television show, "Shark Tank."

The three finalists will present their plans on stage to a panel of judges on May 2. This final round will be open to the public, Strom said, and will take place at 6 p.m. at the Andria Theatre in downtown Alexandria.

Judges will have a few days to mull over their decision, with the winner being announced at a luncheon on May 7 at the Legacy of the Lakes Museum. More details about the luncheon will be posted on the AAEDC's website on its Pitch Your Plan page.

"We want to help people get started or succeed with their business and this is something fun," said Strom of why the AAEDC decided to do the contest.

She said the AAEDC has received awesome support from the community and has partnered with several businesses and agencies for the Pitch Your Plan contest.

The goal, she said, is to get new businesses started in this area or expand existing ones. She added that even though there is one final winner, the hope or dream would be to have all the applicants succeed in their new business ventures.

Who is eligible?

• A business start-up

• A second or third location of an existing business elsewhere

• A significant expansion of a current business with a new concept, product or service line

• A relocation of an existing business that is currently outside Douglas County

• Eligible business concepts must locate to within Douglas County

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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