SKOWHEGAN — Four local entrepreneurs have been chosen as finalists for $20,000 in cash and services to start or expand their business as part of an Entrepreneur Challenge sponsored by Main Street Skowhegan and Skowhegan Savings Bank.

Nancy Blaisdell Baxter, Amanda Clark, Virginia Jewell, and Justin Richard will present their business plans in a final pitch to a selection committee Jan. 14 at the bank as the third and final phase of the challenge, said Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan.

“We started out with 10 contestants and we are now down to four,” Cannon said. “We are looking for businesses that will impact our community — businesses that will enhance Skowhegan and benefit other businesses in the area as well.”

The Entrepreneur Challenge is a three-phase program designed to spur economic activity in downtown Skowhegan, Cannon said.

In order to be considered, an entrepreneur must intend to open a business downtown or expand a current business by May 31. New businesses or significant expansions, such as the addition of three or more jobs, will be given preference over relocation of existing business, Cannon said.

The finalists are:

• Nancy Blaisdell Baxter, who will pitch her independent film company, MeshEarth, which will showcase, promote and celebrate rural Maine living.

• The Maine Barkery’s Amanda Clark, who wants to expand her all-natural dog treat company from her home to a storefront downtown.

• Virginia Jewell, of Ginny’s Natural Corner, who is looking to diversify services at her health food store on Water Street to include cooking classes and educational seminars.

• Justin Richard, who will pitch his downtownfood.com, a food delivery service that will use a Web-based ordering platform.

The $20,000 package includes a $10,000 forgivable loan from Skowhegan Savings Bank, commercial storefront space, Internet access and phone lines from Bee Line Cable, bookkeeping services from Tax Pro, website design and development from Your Designs Unlimited, carpentry services from Dionne & Son Builders, along with other free legal, accounting, banking, marketing and insurance services, according to Cannon.

Skowhegan Savings Bank representatives, town officials, Cannon and members of the Main Street Business Enhancement Committee make up the selection committee. The winner will be announced Feb. 1.

Business owners were given an overview of what it takes to start a business during phase one of the program and guidance for developing their business plans in phase two, according to Sam Hight, owner of Hight Ford and chairman of Main Street’s Business Enhancement Committee.

“We are looking forward to seeing the culmination of their hard work when they present to the selection committee on Jan. 14,” Hight said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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