The contestants in the Start-up Port Hawkesbury event were judged by local business leaders, (from the left): Wayne MacKay of Canso Ford, Tracey Cummings of Subway and Celtic Sisters Gifts, and Danielle MacDonald of Tim Hortons.

PORT HAWKESBURY: The Start-up Port Hawkesbury contest is a Dragon’s Den-style contest that will see one new business win two years of rent free space in Port Hawkesbury, pre-qualify for a $20,000 business loan, receive pro-bono legal services, graphic design services, a one-year Strait Area Chamber of Commerce membership, and ongoing support and training from the contest partners.

Twenty submissions were received in the first round of the contest which required entrants to submit a 90 second video pitching their business idea. The 10 contestants who advanced to the second round were required to further refine their idea through a concept paper and a two-minute pitch before the judging panel before three finalists were chosen.

Local business judges, Tracey Cummings (Subway Restaurants and Celtic Sisters Gifts), Danielle MacDonald (Tim Hortons), and Wayne MacKay (Canso Ford), will be joined by Tareq Hadhad of Peace by Chocolate and Senator Dan Christmas to judge the final round.

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“The judging up to now has been very challenging because we presented them with many good ideas which accurately reflected some of the needs of the community,” said Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) economic development officer Misty MacDonald.

“I would expect it to be a very competitive final round as we will have three solid business plans but only one prize to be won.”

The final round of the Start-up Port Hawkesbury Contest will coincide with the “One Cape Breton” Conference taking place on November 23 and 24 at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. The conference welcomes municipal and First Nations leaders from all over Cape Breton Island who will have the opportunity, first-hand, to watch the final round and consider how it may be used as a means for local economic development in communities.

There is a notable buzz in the community related to the contestants moving forward and talk of personal entrepreneurship endeavours.

“Anticipation is growing as the final round nears,” Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton says. “It’s fantastic to see so many people getting excited about starting a business. We want this excitement of owning and running a small business to continue.”

ESREN Chief Executive Officer John Beaton is also pleased with the growing entrepreneurship culture.

“Having a vibrant local economy requires all hands-on deck and Port Hawkesbury’s business community is generally very supportive of this initiative and other steps being taken to diversify our local economy.”

The three remaining contestants, which include Liam Brophy – Island Enigmas, Michele Tabensky – That Dog Place, and the team of Jason Horton, Jude, Max, and Weldon Long – Proud Maritimer Marketing, will deliver their final pitch presentations to the judges at the Bear Head Room in the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre where the judges will select the winner. Members of the public are invited to attend the event on Thursday, November 23 at 7:30 pm. For further information about the contest please visit: https://esren.ca/start-up-port-hawkesbury/.

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A St. FX graduate and native of Arichat, Jake Boudrot has been the editor of The Reporter since 2001. He currently lives on Isle Madame.