Saturday March 30, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The Strolling of the Heifers has announced the finalists in this year's Vermont Business Plan Competition.

Strolling of the Heifers and Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation have worked together since 2011 to encourage new and existing business owners in Windham County to think critically about their business plans and work to expand their markets.

BDCC did not take part in the competition this year, and this is the first year the annual business competition has been open to entrepreneurs across the state.

Strolling of the Heifers worked with Vermont Technical College this year to broaden the reach of the competition.

The 14 finalists announced Friday represent new and existing agricultural and food entrepreneurs across Vermont, and were selected from among three categories.

The finalists from Windham County include Patricia Austin, in the existing business category, with her company Wild Flour Vermont Bakery, and Peter Winslow of Jamaica in the new business category.

The competition does not release information on new businesses to protect the ideas of the entrepreneurs.

This is the first year college students were asked to enter their business ideas and Connor Killigrew of Putney was among the five college finalists.

"We are thrilled this year to have expanded the competition to be statewide and to have finalists from all regions," said Strolling of the Heifers Founder and Executive Director Orly Munzing. "Agriculture and food are key sectors for keeping Vermont's economy vital, and it is great to see so much innovation going on in our state."

When competition organizers held a workshop in February 120 people showed up across the state and 60 submitted the required business plan to enter the competition.

The 14 finalists were selected from among those 60 entries.

The finalists will be able to work with business professionals as they prepare their final detailed business plan and presentation, which will be presented to a panel of judges on June 5.

Each finalists will have up to 12 minutes to present their plans, and another 10 minutes to answer questions.

The winners will be announced later that afternoon.

The winners will share $60,000 in prize money.

Eighteen judges from across the state reviewed and rated the submissions.

They based their selections on the likelihood of success and job creation.

Judges also considered how the businesses would have an impact on other food and agricultural enterprises and if the businesses would draw tourists to the area.

This year's Strolling of the Heifers weekend is June 7 through 9.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.