SKOWHEGAN — Amanda Clark is this year’s winner of the Main Street Skowhegan Savings Entrepreneur Challenge with more than $23,000 in benefits and incentives for her new business.

No, not that Amanda Clark — the Smithfield woman who won last year’s inaugural challenge, then moved her business back to her home, forcing changes to the program this year.

Amanda Leigh Clark, 28, of Skowhegan, will receive the benefits package, including a $10,000 forgivable loan from Skowhegan Savings Bank to start her business, River Trail Counseling and Wellness Center, according to Main Street Executive Director Kristina Cannon.

“I was honored to be a part of the Entrepreneur Challenge, standing beside other extremely talented entrepreneurs,” Clark said in a Main Street news release. “I learned a lot throughout the process and am excited to take what I have learned and implement it into my counseling and wellness center.”

Clark, a licensed clinical social worker with a concentration in child and family therapy, developed her business plan over the course of five Entrepreneur Challenge business seminars in the fall of 2017, according to Cannon. She met with the Main Street Skowhegan Business Enhancement Committee to further refine her plan before making her final pitch to a selection committee made up of local economic development professionals.

Clark will open her new business in Skowhegan this summer at a location yet to be announced. She will specialize in helping clients overcome challenges and set goals that will improve their quality of life, personal capacity and productivity. In addition to counseling, River Trail will offer health and wellness services, including community workshops, massage therapy, and yoga.

Main Street’s Business Enhancement Committee will continue to work with Clark and provide guidance and mentoring as she prepares to open and throughout her first few years in business, Cannon said.

This year’s challenge came with new built-in safeguards after the program’s first winner, Amanda Clark, then 21, owner of The Maine Barkery organic dog treat business, closed her new downtown shop at 134 Water St. after only a few months in business.

Sam Hight, chairman of the Business Enhancement Committee for Main Street Skowhegan and a member of the Main Street board, said in September that new requirements in place this year will ensure that winners stay in Skowhegan.

“We are requiring a three-year lease — minimum — this time,” he said in September. “The savings bank also has requirements in terms of business continuity. The full $10,000 can be fully realized without penalty, no repayment, if the business stays open for five years.”

Hight said the program was in its infancy in 2015 when it was first launched and that, looking back, “there are some things that we should have and haven’t done.”

The first Amanda Clark closed her shop, saying she wanted to concentrate on the wholesale aspect of her business rather than the retail side.

Amanda Leigh Clark, this year’s winner, will receive a benefits package including consulting from Kyes-Carpenter Insurance; three months of payroll services from Total Payroll Solutions, Inc.; consulting services from H&R Block; carpentry services from Dionne & Son Builders; a one-year membership to the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce; computer supplies and business backup software from Computer Improvements; legal consulting from Mills, Shay, Lexier & Talbot; three months of internet access and up to two phone lines from Bee Line Cable; storefront sign design and development from York Signs; photography services from Brandie Burrill Photography; a promotional video produced by John Harlow at Somerset Community Television; reduced rent from a participating property owner; and website design, marketing consultation and promotional services from Main Street Skowhegan.

Matthew Gallant, a junior at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, was selected as the winner of the Junior Entrepreneur Challenge for his business idea, Gallant Media, according to Cannon. He plans to use his first-place prize money, awarded via a grant from the bank, to fund his start-up.

“We are proud to sponsor and support these business competitions,” said Vicki Alward, senior vice president at Skowhegan Savings Bank. “It’s important to educate our local entrepreneurs about what it takes to start, own, and maintain a successful business.”

Gallant, a participant in Mt. Blue High School’s Entrepreneurial Program, pitched his startup idea in early March to the Enhancement Committee, which served as the selection committee for the three student finalists. Gallant plans to use the $1,000 first-place prize to build a business that will provide computer services, including website and mobile application development and computer network and software installations, to small- and medium-sized businesses in western Maine. Gallant’s homegrown all-in-one tool, Gallant WebMaster, will also allow clients to build and manage their own websites without any programming experience, according to Cannon.

The selection committee also awarded second- and third-place prizes in the junior challenge. Second place went to Smart Planner, an organizational application for students by Madison High School students Emily Edgerly, Shelby Belanger and Katie Worthen. Madison High School will receive $450 of the $750 second-place prize, and the remaining money will be split among the three student entrepreneurs.

Third place was awarded to L. Enright Photography, a business idea developed by Skowhegan Area High School sophomore Lauren Enright. A portion of the $500 cash prize will be awarded to Enright as a scholarship for college, and the remainder will benefit the Entrepreneurship Class at the school.

Both competitions included educational components that provided entrepreneurs with information about the nuts and bolts of owning a business. Junior entrepreneurs took entrepreneurship classes and met with local business leaders. Participants in the challenge attended business seminars where they learned about insurance needs, required permits, cash flow and financial analyses, and marketing strategies.

The Junior Entrepreneur Challenge was developed by Jobs for Maine’s Graduates in partnership with the bank and the Enhancement Committee. Prize money for first, second and third place winners came from a grant from Skowhegan Savings Bank. Sixty-three students from the three schools participated in this pilot program, according to Cannon.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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