Foundation Launches $30,000 Downtown Startup Challenge


The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties announces the launch of its second business competition, the Downtown Startup Challenge to award up to $30,000 to an entrepreneur with an innovative business idea for downtown Utica or Rome.

Entrepreneurs are invited to submit ideas for a new business in select districts of downtown Utica or Rome. Interested individuals and/or groups must apply by Friday, June 30, 2017, to be considered for participation. Complete Downtown Startup information is available at www.downtownstartup.com.

Those accepted in the Downtown Startup Challenge will receive startup coaching from thINCubator and have the opportunity to pitch their idea for up to $30,000 in seed funding from The Community Foundation.

“The Downtown Startup Challenge is a chance for aspiring entrepreneurs to take their idea to the next level,” said Alicia Dicks, president and CEO of The Community Foundation. “Developing local talent is essential to economic growth in our region. The winning business and many of the participants will be a part of the continuing transformation of our downtown districts thriving community assets.

Smith Market, the winner of last year’s downtown entrepreneurship challenge, is on track to open its doors later this year. The natural food store and local market secured a location at 412 Main Street, Utica, in the former D.B. Smith & Co. building and renovations are underway. Co-owners Luciann Gould and Christopher Tillotson were inspired by the growing demand for a natural food store and year-round local market in the downtown community.

“This is an idea that has evolved in me for years,” said co-owner Luciann Gould. “Participating in the challenge was a fantastic opportunity to gain the community’s support and to make connections that have helped us through the process of opening our business. It was the push we needed to get started.”

Last year 33 applications were accepted into the challenge, many of these participants have moved forward with their plans and are now in business.

The Downtown Startup Challenge is sponsored by The Foundation’s Corporate Partners: Adjusters International; Bank of America; Bank of Utica; Birnie Bus Service, Inc.; Carbone Auto Group; Casa Imports; Charles A. Gaetano Construction Corp.; Clifford Fuel Co., Inc.; Coughlin Giambrone, LLC; Excellus BlueCross BlueShield; Fastrac Markets; First Source Federal Credit Union; M. Griffith Investment Services, Inc.; Mohawk Valley EDGE; NBT Bank; “Save of the Day” Foundation; Strategic Financial Services, LLC; The Observer-Dispatch; Upstate Venture Connect; WIBX 950; and WKTV NewsChannel 2.