AUBURN — As the winner of the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council’s first $100,000 contest prepares to open her business, the business group is planning for a second “Launch L-A!” contest aimed at luring young entrepreneurs back to the cities.
“I know the growth council would like to do a repeat performance this year,” Lucien Gosselin, the growth council’s president, said. “That’s our goal.”
Though the contest received fewer than a dozen entries, it managed to draw media interest from around the country for its prize and its narrow entry pool.
To be eligible, applicants had to be natives of the Lewiston-Auburn area but have moved away. They had to agree to return. And they had to be under 30 years old.
The winner, decided by 2,000 online votes, received almost $100,000 in business startup aid, including cash and in-kind services. Banks gave money. Accountants, lawyers and advertisers gave their services.
“We’re hopeful that the business community will support it again this year,” Gosselin said.
The contest’s first winner, Chelsie Fournier, was announced in March.
On Monday, the 27-year-old lawyer originally from Lewiston said she hoped to kick off her business — currently named “Lifestyles Massage Inc” — in the fall.
She has already signed a rental deal for space at 600 Turner St. in Auburn. It’s a strip mall storefront between a Planet Fitness gym and a Social Security office, not far from the Residence Inn.
“The traffic going in there and being a hub, not only for Lewiston-Auburn but for travelers makes it attractive,” she said. Also, the gym and the nearby Sun Tan City have a similar market to the one Fournier has identified.
Like the gym and the tanning salon, Fournier’s business will be membership-based, she said. There may even be a chance for them to work together.
Currently, the gym offers patrons the use of mechanical massage chairs but not hands-on massages. Fournier, who is partnering with her sister, Kim Jacques, on the project. Jacques, an experienced massage therapist, will be the primary day-to-day manager, Fournier said.
Other details are still uncertain.
“We’ve used the legal services and the accounting services,” Fournier said. “We’ve been meeting with Rinck Advertising and had a really fantastic meeting with them trying to figure out our brand.”
One plan is to rename the business this summer, prior to its opening.
Details of the storefront location, including how many workers will be needed probably won’t be certain until clients begin signing up.
“There’s definitely been a leg up in the value of the services we have gotten, to date,” Fournier said. Working independently, she and her sister would have tried to open their business this year, she figured.
This has been faster, she said.
“We’re excited that she’s moving forward with this, and we look forward to her grand opening,” Gosselin said.