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Get a Jump on the Competition

DECI’s Jump-Start contest boosts downtown biz ideas

Tom Giffey

“If you start me up,” Mick Jagger once sang, “I’ll never stop.” That’s the goal behind the Jump-Start Business Plan Competition: Giving start-up businesses the jolt of momentum they need to go from zero to 60 on the entrepreneurial race track.

The competition, sponsored by Downtown Eau Claire Inc., RCU, and more than a dozen local businesses, is designed for entrepreneurs who want to start businesses in – or relocate them to – downtown Eau Claire. Whether your idea is for a restaurant, a gift shop, a high-tech firm, or a high-tech restaurant that sells gifts (that’s our million-dollar idea), Jump-Start is for you.

The visibility the contest brought to the Smiling Moose through media recognition and advertising lasted for almost two years. – Colleen Weber Smiling Moose Deli

Now in its 11th year, the contest has distributed more than $64,000 in prizes. Thirty contest participants have opened businesses downtown, including past winners such as Offbeats Violin & Guitar (last year’s champ), Smiling Moose Deli, Willow Creek Women’s Clinic, Just Local Food Co-op, and many more. With hard work and luck, your napkin sketch idea could be on that list by next year!

Past winners praise the contest, both for the prize money and the promotional boost it provides. “The money certainly came in handy, but more importantly winning highlighted our choice of location for the Smiling Moose Deli,” restaurateur Colleen Weber says in a brochure promoting Jump-Start. “The visibility the contest brought to the Smiling Moose through media recognition and advertising lasted for almost two years!”

To enter the contest, submit an application and a business plan of fewer than 30 pages to DECI by June 12. Proposed business must be in downtown Eau Claire  – although if your business is already downtown, it’s ineligible – and businesses must be open by May 2016. Judges with small-business experience will vet the entries and chose finalists, who may be asked to make presentations to the judges. Judging criteria include business description, competition/marketing analysis, marketing plan, management plan, financial plan, and viability.

Grand prize winners will receive $5,000 in cash for start-up capital, a DECI media package, and a strategy session with JB Systems, a Web development and marketing firm. Honorable mention winners will get $500 in cash for start-up costs, a DECI media package, and $420 in services from Spin Vision, which offers customized virtual tours. Applicants are also eligible for honorable mention prizes and the Innovative Idea Prize, a $1,000 scholarship to the Entrepreneurial Training Program at UWEC’s Small Business Development Center. To paraphrase the Stones again, all these prizes are enough to make a grown man cry – with joy.

To check out full contest details and to download an application, visit http://tinyurl.com/JumpStartEC. If you have questions, contact Elaine Coughlin at elaine.coughlin@eauclairewi.gov or (715) 839-4914.