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Entrepreneurs to take center stage at DreamFest

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An oral presentation and five judges are all that stands in the way of six entrepreneurs getting seed money at the inaugural DreamFest this Saturday.

“We are excited to help support these innovative and creative business ventures with start-up capital and technical assistance,” said Greg Godard, CEO of the Upper Coastal Plain Development Corp., which runs the Upper Coastal Plain Business Development Center and has organized the “Shark Tank”-like event.

In November, 46 entrepreneurs from Wilson and six other counties registered for the chance at a $10,000 grand prize, $5,000 for second place and $2,500 for the third place finalist. Earlier this month, 17 of the competitors submitted business plans about their product or service. From there, the five judges said 13 met the contest criteria and selected the top six to deliver a presentation about their plan at DreamFest.

“I think the oral presentations will be interesting. It takes preparation and skill to present your business plan in an oral way,” Godard said. “I watch ‘Shark Tank’ every weekend and it is amazing to see the types of ventures that come on the show, but we have some interesting innovations and businesses here locally.”

DreamFest will kick off with registration and refreshments at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Edna Boykin Cultural Center in downtown Wilson. The program will begin at 9:30 a.m. and the keynote speakers — Ken Adelglass and Julius Tillery — will discuss turning their ideas into reality from 10:30 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.

“I think they’ll excite the crowd by portraying what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur,” Godard said. “The presentations by the six finalists to follow will also highlight many of these same characteristics.”

Each finalist will have 15 minutes, including five minutes to answer questions. Audience members will be able to vote for their favorites before a lunch break at 12:45 p.m. when the judges will tally the final scores. With each paid ticket, attendees will receive a $5 voucher to use at Tig’s Courtyard, Bill’s Grill, SaYum Deli and Krueger’s Candies. At 1:45 p.m., the judges will announce the winners and attendees will be able to tour the business development center.

For more information about the event and to purchase tickets for $15, visit www.dreamfest2018.info/.

“DreamFest is about educating the public about entrepreneurs and small business development,” Godard said. “Many jobs are being created in the modern economy thanks to inventors and small business ventures. People are concerned jobs with large manufacturing facilities will go away because of automation and robotics, but small businesses are less susceptible to that and the community will become more reliant on small businesses for employment.”

Back in Business

Two long-vacant restaurants are getting new life. Frederick Myles opened Mason’s Restaurant on Dec. 14 at 2801 Ward Blvd., Suite 1A, in Brentwood.

“I’ve opened up other businesses, but this is something I’ve wanted to do all my life,” Myles said. “I’ve always liked how restaurants bring people together.”

Mason’s is a carryout-only restaurant specializing in country-style Southern food. Myles said the menu is the cook’s take on her great-grandmother’s recipes, which often sell out on Saturdays.

Customers are invited to try the popular ribs, collards and other specials Thursdays through Saturdays, For more information, visit tinyurl.com/ydbes3u4 or call 252-296-8232.

Myles said he hopes to perfect the menu and move to a larger location for a sit-down restaurant in the coming months.

Another entrepreneur is looking to transform the former Ward’s Steak & Cheese location at 307 Herring Ave. into The Scoreboard. Owner Don Hobbs has worked with Ward’s for several years, but left in the fall to branch out on his own.

“I wanted to do this because there really is nothing on that side of town in terms of entertainment,” Hobbs said. “I’ve been shopping around for investors, but the deals keep falling through in the end.”

The building reportedly is in decent shape. Hobbs said he needs to add a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit and wants to redo the kitchen to allow him to cook bar food such as hamburgers, french fries and chicken wings.

If Hobbs finds an investor, he said he would like to be open for July Fourth, if not by Memorial Day.

“I just want people to be patient and the community to believe in me,” he said. “If they can do that, they can trust they’ll have a nice place to go once our doors open.”

Extra! Extra!

Another opportunity for seed money is approaching for North Carolina-based startups through N.C. Idea. The private foundation has awarded more than $5 million in grants to 125 companies across the state in the last decade. Applications are accepted between Feb. 12-26.

Entrepreneurs can attend information sessions — including one at 4 p.m. Thursday through the UNC Wilmington Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship — or get answers to specific questions through virtual office hours in February. For more information or to register, visit tinyurl.com/yc8uhgpr/.

Got an idea for news to include in next week’s Main Street Minute? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 252-265-7821 or bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com.

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