Entrepreneurs far and wide are being called upon to front up to Lunenburg with some "big ideas." If an idea of theirs hits the mark with a panel of community advocates, it could mean a coveted commercial spot in the UNESCO town.
NOW Lunenburg County is leading the charge in a high-profile competition called Big Ideas Now to get a tenant for an 84-square-metre commercial space on the main floor of the three-story house at 11 Lincoln Street.
"This just isn't about who could pay the rent. It's really about what would add to the community," said Tina Hennigar, population growth coordinator for NOW Lunenburg County, a self-organized group of business and community leaders dedicated to expanding the number of people who live and work in the region.
According to Hennigar, the scheme stems back to late last year, when NOW Lunenburg County was approached by Jennifer Corson, who was in the throes of establishing a satellite office in Lunenburg for her Halifax-based architectural firm, Solterre Design.
"She wanted to find out if I had heard of anyone who had moved here who was looking for work as an architect, and which I had ironically," Hennigar told LighthouseNOW in a telephone interview.
Corson had bought the building on Lincoln Street with the thought of having her design firm on the second floor, and renting out the main floor to a business or organization.
She wondered "'What did Lunenburg need?'" And were there people looking for retail space, recalled Hennigar.
Corson didn't want just anyone. "She really wanted it to fill a need, to add to the vibrancy of the community, the already existing beautiful community," said Hennigar.
Hennigar and the team at NOW Lunenburg County reached out to Andrew Button, the owner of Mashup Lab who works with entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, thinking he might know of someone or some business looking for commercial space.
They also turned to Meg Craig, the owner of the Mahone Bay-based branding and marketing company, SkySail Brand.
Together they landed on the plan of doing a pitch-style of competition in the vein of the Dragon's Den program on the CBC television network.
The candidates can share their ideas for a new business, or how they might expand an existing business into a larger space. Perhaps it's an entrepreneur ready to take their business outside of their home. "Or maybe it's a business that hasn't even been born yet. Maybe it's just a dream in their head," said Hennigar.
It might even be someone who is thinking of moving to Nova Scotia and Lunenburg and establishing a business, but who may not be sure of where they might locate it, she added.
They drew upon experience Button gleaned while participating in a similar exercise in Yarmouth. with the Western Regional Enterprise Network (WREN) and the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce.
Button has offered to lend his business coaching expertise as a prize, and Craig is providing a package of SkySail services as well. Praxes Medical Group and Drastic Measures jumped on board as sponsors.
"Together we are hoping to create some much-needed excitement around supporting local businesses at this very tenuous time," Hennigar explained earlier in an email to LighthouseNOW.
What's up for grabs is a package worth $12,500, which includes four months of free rent of 84-square-metre store front space at 11 Lincoln street (valued at $7,500); a package of business services tailored to the winner's needs - accounting, marketing and advertising, business development, architectural design, interior design, branding and social media coaching (valued at $5,000); and all participants win a free registration to Mashup Lab Idea Challenge in July. https://www.mashuplab.ca/ideachallenge.html
To apply, candidates are invited to go to the NOW Lunenburg County website at https://www.nowlunenburgcounty.com/big-ideas-now.html
They'll need to answer a few questions and provide a 500-word or two-minute video pitch.
A group of finalists will be selected from the initial round of applications. Finalists will be asked to submit a more detailed application and complete a five-minute pitch for their business idea.
According to the website, the first round of judging will consider such criteria as "vision, passion of the business proponent, viability of the business in our community and importance of the space to the success of the business."
The second round of judging will look at the viability of the business plan, the qualification of the team, the impact on the region, growth potential, strength of the pitch and "readiness of proponents to run the business."
There is a detailed timeline of the selection process on the website, with 11:59 p.m. June 22 indicated as the Round 1 application submission deadline. The final pitch event and winner announcement will be August 13.