This week, it’s an all-entrepreneurial Buzz.

First up: Less pizza, pizza, more coffee, coffee.

Aroma Joe’s is looking to move into the former Little Caesar’s location in the Marden’s shopping center parking lot at 760 Main St. in Lewiston.

The spot would be franchisee Tulio DeAlmeida’s third location.

“We have been blessed with the support of our local community and we have heard requests/comments from our patrons to have a location on Main Street and the building sitting at Marden’s property, it’s a perfect spot with an easy access in and out,” DeAlmeida said Monday. “We are looking to get the construction started ASAP with an estimated opening time for end of winter, beginning of spring.”

It’s already a popular coffee corridor with two Dunkin’ within two miles down the road.

The project, which would be drive-thru only, is headed to a public hearing with the Planning Board next Monday.

Also in front of the board: Building a proposed 6,600-square foot marijuana grow facility at 7 Lexington St., according to a city notice sent to abutters.

Haley Ward Engineering has submitted plans on behalf of Ryan Bourqe for the project. It’s also up for a public hearing.

WANTED: YOUR BUSINESS IDEAS IN AUBURN

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, right, talks with Staples Connect’s Team Supervisor Blake Major, left, and General Manager Jameson Rodrigues inside the new coworking center where three entrepreneurs from a pool of applicants will get help with their startup, including a dedicated free coworking space for four months, through the Startup Auburn competition. Rodrigues is an Edward Little High School graduate and said he’s excited about growing the business in his hometown. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The city of Auburn’s latest economic development initiative, an entrepreneurial incubator inside a new Staples Connect retail store, could someday be replicated across the country, Mayor Jason Levesque said Monday.

The idea for Startup Auburn came together quickly, he said, as he and Chamber President Shanna Cox were gearing up for the ribbon cutting on the new store, which moved from across the river in Lewiston into the former OfficeMax this month.

“My biggest holdup when I started my business was I had no money, an old laptop and my living room; there was no such thing as a coworking space,” said Levesque, who grew Argo Marketing to 600 employees in three countries before selling it in 2018.

The new Staples Connect on Union Street in Auburn, where the former OfficeMax was located. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

With Startup Auburn, three entrepreneurs will be chosen by Jan. 1 to receive four months of private office space, a $500 Staples gift certificate and a year membership in the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to get their ideas off the ground.

Both the chamber and Staples are also partners in the effort.

It’s open to Auburn residents. Applications will open in the next week at goauburn.me.

The new 24,000-square foot Staples Connect has 1,500 square feet dedicated to coworking space with private offices and both dedicated and open seating and a large conference room, according to a spokesperson.

Space can be rented by the day or month, or with the conference room, by the hour.

For the contest, Levesque approached Staples about renting three cubicles for three months. He said they liked the idea so much, Staples upgraded the space to private offices, covered a fourth month and added the gift certificates.

“This is only the second coworking space of this size and magnitude (by Staples) in the country; the other one is in Los Angeles, so they really think there’s a huge need for this, and they’re right,” Levesque said. “We can run this pilot, see how it works, track it and if it’s successful, we’ll just keep rolling it out so there’s always three dedicated offices available to entrepreneurs from Auburn.”

The three spaces will cost the city $3,600 in this first round, which, if it potentially helps launch three new companies, is an “unbelievably strong” return on investment, he said.

“I’ll be working with the entrepreneurs, too, because that’s part of the package,” Levesque said. “I’m going to dust off all my old marketing knowledge, my communications knowledge and work with these folks as a mentor, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

WANTED: EVEN MORE ENTREPRENEURS

It’s nearly Top Gun LA time again.

Cox, who is leading this next year’s class, said she’s hoping for eight to 10 entrepreneurs ready to bring their idea or business to the next level for the 2022 session, which starts in January and culminates in a live pitch-off at the May chamber breakfast.

Regional winners across the state will ultimately pitch for a $25,000 grand prize in the annual contest by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs.

The deadline for applications is Nov. 30.

“I would think anyone, whether they’re at the idea stage or they’ve been in business a couple of years and they’re trying to figure out how to really get underway and grow their business, I would say apply and take Top Gun,” said Cox. “It’s really top-of-their-field experts across the state delivering content every week so you can really think of all of the aspects of your business, whether its fleshing out the idea or really fine-tuning it for success. For so many entrepreneurs, they get stuck in the working your business stage that they don’t get a chance to step back and work on their business and that’s what Top Gun’s all about.”

Quick hits about business comings, goings and happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

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