Calling all current business owners and prospective entrepreneurs – the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission is once again hosting the Pitch Your Plan business contest.

Applications for the second annual event open on Feb. 24.

Pitch Your Plan is a three-phase business competition open to current business owners or prospective entrepreneurs who present a for-profit business idea to a 12-member committee.

Abby Strom with the AAEDC announced some changes to this year’s competition, including an extra category.

One category is for those who would like to start up their own business, and another is for those wishing to expand their current business by adding a new concept, product or service line, or for those who would like to relocate an existing business in Douglas County.

A second change is the length of the contest. After receiving feedback from participants last year, the three-phase process has been shortened. Phase 1, the application process, runs Feb. 24 through March 13.

Up to 10 semifinalists will be chosen from all applications at livingalexarea.org/pitchyourplan. Finalists will go through a business bootcamp, working with a consultant to build a business plan. Those plans will be due April 10.

A panel of judges will review the plans and have an opportunity to interview the semifinalists one-on-one, narrowing it down to up to six finalists.

At the end of April, the finalists will pitch their plans to the panel of judges in a style similar to the television show “Shark Tank.” This part of the competition will be open to the public. A time and place has not been set.

After hearing the pitches, the judges will deliberate and reveal a winner in each of the two categories. The two winning businesses will receive prize packages with similar values.

Strom said she is working on the prize packages and that sponsorships are available. Information for sponsorships is available on the Pitch Your Plan page of the AAEDC’s website. Email inquiries can be sent to pitchyourplanmn@gmail.com.

“We had such great feedback from last year and so many people asking if we were going to do it again,” said Strom. “It’s something fun and it provides great resources to help set you up or help get you to that next level.”

There were 33 applicants in the 2019 contest, won by Copper Trail Brewing Company.

Knowledge gained

Copper Trail founders Adam Graf and Dave Gibbons relocated their business from the southeast side of Alexandria to the downtown area by Big Ole Central Park. They said with the scope of the move, the relocation process was similar to starting from scratch.

The co-owners won a prize package last year worth $38,000. A number of those items helped them in the startup process, they said.

The garbage and recycling service from Alex Rubbish was one of the most beneficial services. Other benefits, they said, included: help with parking lot layout from Widseth Smith Nolting; some internet services from Gardonville; banking incentives from Viking Bank; signage for doors and lighted signs from Signmax; advertising for their grand opening from Hubbard Radio and the Echo Press; and a one-year membership to the Chamber of Commerce.

They also noted that the Economic Development Commission provided funds they used for their lease.

Although the process spanned a number of months, Graf and Gibbons said the knowledge they gained about themselves and the business they are continuing to build was very beneficial.

They said it was rewarding to share their story with so many people and highly encourage the community to continue to be a part of the process, hearing the stories of all the entrepreneurs who are participating.

And for those wanting to try enter this year’s competition, the brewery owners said that competitors should know their business, be confident about their processes, be ready to answer many common questions and tell why the business is important to the community. They also said participants should have clear ideas of how they are going to accomplish their goals.

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

For more information, contact Strom at 320-763-4545.