Contest spurs future Cornwall downtown business

Chris Munro, owner of Life's Little Pleasures, speaks about her passion as a small business owner during the launch of a new business incubator contest on Friday, May 4, 2018. The Downtown Business Improvement Area has launched 'Win This Space' which will provide rent or lease payments for a year for a budding small business owner. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The city’s Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) is hoping to help budding small business owners get over a big hurdle with a new contest.

During a news conference Friday morning, spokesman Todd Lihou announced the launch of “Win This Space” – a kickstarter contest to cover up to $1,000 a month for rent or lease payments for a year in a location within the Downtown BIA area – roughly an area from Water Street north to Fourth Street and from York Street east to Sydney Street.

The contest, which is free to enter, is not a new idea, having run successfully in southern Ontario, including Huron County, where the DBIA got the idea.

The DBIA has partnered with the Cornwall Business Enterprise Center, which will be providing six weeks of training to the 25 candidates selected this summer.

After that, the list will be pared down to five finalists who will compete in a Dragon’s Den-type setup to choose a winner.

It’s also hoped that by taking the business training, other contestants will decide to open up shop as well, even if they don’t win.

“It’s our hope that…even entrepreneurs who are unsuccessful in securing the grand prize will still open a business because of the passion they have for their idea and the training they have enjoyed,” Lihou said.

A number of small business owners were there for the kickoff, including Robert Prowse of Chesley’s Inn and Chris Munro of Life’s Little Pleasures.

“I embrace their passion and I encourage their passion but it isn’t easy being a small business, they need to know that, but they have to lead with their heart,” Munro told Cornwall Newswatch.

Munro said the support system will help a lot. “So many times I’ve have seen people start up and with passion but then the support’s not there. Maybe they don’t have a strong network of people that know them. I think it’s (the contest and training) going to be really good,” she said.

Bob Peters, speaking on behalf of the Cornwall Business Enterprise Center, says the center has about 300 consultations a year, which result in around 30-35 new businesses in Cornwall, SD&G and Akwesasne.

“There’s a huge transition to move from starting your business to moving into space, commercial space. That’s a huge jump and what an opportunity this program has to help that entrepreneur reach that next level a little bit quicker,” Peters said.

The goal is to create a business that will last decades, Peters added.

The deadline to submit an entry is Aug. 3, 2018. You can find more information on the contest plus the entry form here.