An Edmonton developer is offering $125,000 to whoever can make the best idea for a restaurant or retail business in the planned Stadium Yards neighbourhood.
“We want to help launch a small business, walk alongside them, and give them the resources they need,” said Marty Pawlina, marketing manager at Rohit Group of Companies, the real estate company behind a contest it calls The Cut.
Launched Monday, the contest helps Rohit introduce the transit-minded district and get behind a creative local entrepreneur, said Pawlina.
Judged by a panel of experts, the winner will take home the seed money from Rohit to set up shop as an anchor tenant in the new district. Next to the Stadium LRT station, the neighbourhood will have more than 720 residential units, expected to be ready by October, along with commercial spaces. The idea is to give small, local entrepreneurs the opportunity to launch with a bit of a runway.
“There’s a real hunger in Edmonton — a lot of great entrepreneurs,” said Pawlina. The team behind the competition asked itself what a new startup would need to succeed, and calculated the rough cost of a year’s worth of rent.
Pawlina said the company wanted the winner to be able to choose how to spend the money. All that is needed to enter the contest is a short elevator pitch video and a paragraph explaining your idea. Applications close Feb. 9, and finalists will need to submit a draft business plan. The top five will present their business plans to the judges for a final decision at an event Feb. 20.
“For us to do well the small guys need to do well too.”
By removing some of the financial burdens to starting a business, the incentives can help “something very niche to succeed,” said panel judge Jay Downton, president of Oodle Noodle.
“For me this is identity-building for Edmonton,” said Downton.
Startups involve making mistakes, and mistakes can get very expensive, so the cash can allow a startup to take risks, he said.
It’s a different approach to the traditional real estate model, but if it succeeds, the area will have the tenants it needs to support the right amenities, he said. It’s also a call to action for talented people in Edmonton who are looking for a new opportunity.
“There’s a lot of cool talented people in Edmonton who are just looking for their chance. Who is it going to bring to the surface?”