Welcome to the Destination Downtown Business Challenge, a one-of-a-kind competition to unleash the next great business idea in Downtown Brainerd!
Welcome to the Destination Downtown Business Challenge, a one-of-a-kind competition to unleash the next great business idea in Downtown Brainerd!

The application process is now closed as the contest moves into Phase 2 with a total of 73 applications! Our judges will be meeting to choose the entrepreneurs who will advance to the business planning phase, and we will be in touch with those who move forward. Thanks to all who applied, and stay tuned for the Top 3 announcement in October! For contest updates, follow us on Facebook.

ANSWER 5 QUESTIONS TO START YOUR ADVENTURE

ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY

ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY

WHAT

Destination Downtown is a unique business competition to advance the economic revolution of Downtown Brainerd. With a community prize package worth more than $50,000, the Business Challenge will provide an awesome advantage to entrepreneurs seeking to start or expand a business.

HOW

The Business Challenge has three phases, beginning with a simple online application. Your journey will then wind through a team of coaches, consultants and 11 judges, making the process itself a tremendous value. The winner will be revealed to more than 500 event guests on November 15.

WHO

There are two Who’s. Us and you. We are forward-thinking businesses and community organizations whose aim is the success of Downtown Brainerd. You are the creative and competitive type, someone who has been waiting for the right moment to launch a brilliant business idea. Your time is now.

WHAT

Destination Downtown is a unique business competition to advance the economic revolution of Downtown Brainerd. With a community prize package worth more than $50,000, the Business Challenge will provide an awesome advantage to entrepreneurs seeking to start or expand a business.

HOW

The Business Challenge has three phases, beginning with a simple online application. Your journey will then wind through a team of coaches, consultants and 11 judges, making the process itself a tremendous value. The winner will be revealed to more than 400 event guests on November 16.

WHO

There are two Who’s. Us and you. We are forward-thinking businesses and community organizations whose aim is the success of Downtown Brainerd. You are the creative and competitive type, someone who has been waiting for the right moment to launch a brilliant business idea. Your time is now.

2017 DESTINATION DOWNTOWN CONTEST WINNER

BRENDA BILLMAN-ARNDT,
PURPLE FERN BATH COMPANY

Meet Brenda Billman-Arndt, our 2017 Destination Downtown Business Challenge winner. Through the contest, Brenda has gone from business dreamer to business owner in under one year’s time. Her shop, The Purple Fern Bath Company, opened this past May in Downtown Brainerd. As the winner of last year’s contest and as Downtown Brainerd’s newest business owner, Brenda has joined the Judging Committee for this year’s Destination Downtown Business Challenge and has become an advocate for the contest.

“My business would not be here today if it hadn't been for the Destination Downtown contest. I have always dreamt of owning my own business, and this contest gave me the push to do just that. I had been making handmade soap for years, and when I saw the Destination Downtown contest deadline approaching, I decided to enter and see what would happen. Winning the contest means my business is getting off to the best possible start any small business could dream of. Everyone in this area wants a vibrant and healthy downtown Brainerd, and I am excited to be a part of just that.”

2017 DESTINATION DOWNTOWN CONTEST WINNER

BRENDA BILLMAN-ARNDT, PURPLE FERN BATH COMPANY

Meet Brenda Billman-Arndt, our 2017 Destination Downtown Business Challenge winner. Through the contest, Brenda has gone from business dreamer to business owner in under one year’s time. Her shop, The Purple Fern Bath Company, opened this past May in Downtown Brainerd. As the winner of last year’s contest and as Downtown Brainerd’s newest business owner, Brenda has joined the Judging Committee for this year’s Destination Downtown Business Challenge and has become an advocate for the contest.

“My business would not be here today if it hadn't been for the Destination Downtown contest. I have always dreamt of owning my own business, and this contest gave me the push to do just that. I had been making handmade soap for years, and when I saw the Destination Downtown contest deadline approaching, I decided to enter and see what would happen. Winning the contest means my business is getting off to the best possible start any small business could dream of. Everyone in this area wants a vibrant and healthy downtown Brainerd, and I am excited to be a part of just that.”

THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS

THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS

PRIZES

WAY MORE THAN A BLUE RIBBON.
IT'S 50,000 REASONS TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

If you close your eyes and imagine everything that a business would need to succeed in its first year, you’re getting a picture of our fabulous Community Prize Package! Our crown jewel is a $20,000 extreme marketing makeover from Range, A Deluxe Company, and it just keeps getting better from there. Click or tap any of the icons below for full details.

PRIZES

WAY MORE THAN A BLUE RIBBON. IT'S 50,000 REASONS TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

If you close your eyes and imagine everything that a business would need to succeed in its first year, you’re getting a picture of our fabulous Community Prize Package! Our crown jewel is a $20,000 extreme marketing makeover from Range, A Deluxe Company, and it just keeps getting better from there. Click or tap any of the icons below for full details.

DOWNTOWN

WELCOME TO OPPORTUNITY SQUARE.

In the late 1800s, Downtown Brainerd popped up at the railroad intersection of logging and mining. Today, it’s at ground zero of the most celebrated vacation destination in Minnesota. Our contest winner will write their own chapter in the storied history of Downtown Brainerd. Some call it revitalization. We call it a revolution.

Opportunity Square is exactly what it sounds like, the zone where business dreams will become a reality for our Business Challenge winner. Opportunity Square is four square blocks. Front Street and Maple Street are the sirens of commerce in the north and south. 6th Street and 8th Street usher customers from the east and west.

DOWNTOWN

WELCOME TO OPPORTUNITY SQUARE.

In the late 1800s, Downtown Brainerd popped up at the railroad intersection of logging and mining. Today, it’s at ground zero of the most celebrated vacation destination in Minnesota. Our contest winner will write their own chapter in the storied history of Downtown Brainerd. Some call it revitalization. We call it a revolution.

Opportunity Square is exactly what it sounds like, the zone where business dreams will become a reality for our Business Challenge winner. Opportunity Square is four square blocks. Front Street and Maple Street are the sirens of commerce in the north and south. 6th Street and 8th Street usher customers from the east and west.

ENTREPRENEURS,

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.

ENTREPRENEURS,

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.

CUSTOMERS ARE RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER

Some of the Brainerd area’s largest employers are just blocks from Opportunity Square. People pass by everyday on their way to Ascensus, Essentia Health—St. Joseph’s Medical Center, Brainerd High School, Central Lakes College and Crow Wing County among many banks and professional service providers.

CUSTOMERS ARE RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER

Some of the Brainerd area’s largest employers are just blocks from Opportunity Square. People pass by everyday on their way to Ascensus, Essentia Health—St. Joseph’s Medical Center, Brainerd High School, Central Lakes College and Crow Wing County among many banks and professional service providers.

NEARBY TRAFFIC IS STEADY TO CRAZY

The average daily traffic on South 6th Street (MN Business 371) is 11,100 vehicles per day. According to MNDOT, summer traffic can be 30% higher on weekdays, 50% higher on weekends, and 100% higher on holiday weekends. 170 parking spots are scattered throughout Opportunity Square.

NEARBY TRAFFIC IS STEADY TO CRAZY

The average daily traffic on South 6th Street (MN Business 371) is 11,100 vehicles per day. According to MNDOT, summer traffic can be 30% higher on weekdays, 50% higher on weekends, and 100% higher on holiday weekends. 170 parking spots are scattered throughout Opportunity Square.

DOWNTOWNS ARE BACK, BABY

Today’s customers are looking for unique character, craftsmanship and authenticity. Where else can you set up a shop with that kind of patina? That’s right—nowhere but downtown! Every storefront has a rich history and a retro-cool factor that will never go out of style. And did we mention that leasing rates are among the lowest in the Brainerd Lakes Area?

DOWNTOWNS ARE BACK, BABY

Today’s customers are looking for unique character, craftsmanship and authenticity. Where else can you set up a shop with that kind of patina? That’s right—nowhere but downtown! Every storefront has a rich history and a retro-cool factor that will never go out of style. And did we mention that leasing rates are among the lowest in the Brainerd Lakes Area?

TESTIMONIALS

Why downtown Brainerd? Good question. We'll let our current business owners take that one.

TESTIMONIALS

Why downtown Brainerd? Good question. We'll let our current business owners take that one.

HOW IT WORKS.

THREE PHASES. ONE WINNER.

HOW IT WORKS.

THREE PHASES.
ONE WINNER.

- PHASE 1 -

THE PROBE

DEADLINE: JULY 29

Answer five simple questions to convince the judges that you have what it takes. Up to ten entries will advance.

- PHASE 2 -

THE PLAN

DEADLINE: SEPTEMBER 16

Work with the Small Business Development Center to build your business plan. Choose the desired site for your business in Opportunity Square. Check your credit. Up to three entries will advance.

- PHASE 3 -

THE PITCH

PITCH WEEK: OCTOBER 8 - 12

Meet with an architect to illustrate your business vision. Check your numbers with an accountant. Work with seasoned execs to fine-tune your pitch. Deliver a shark-style presentation to our judges.

- PHASE 1 -

THE PROBE

DEADLINE: JULY 29

Answer five simple questions to convince the judges that you have what it takes. Up to ten entries will advance.

- PHASE 2 -

THE PLAN

DEADLINE: SEPTEMBER 16

Work with the Small Business Development Center to build your business plan. Choose the desired site for your business in Opportunity Square. Check your credit. Up to three entries will advance.

- PHASE 3 -

THE PITCH

PITCH WEEK: OCTOBER 8 - 12

Meet with an architect to illustrate your business vision. Check your numbers with an accountant. Work with seasoned execs to fine-tune your pitch. Deliver a shark-style presentation to our judges.

THE BIG REVEAL

NOVEMBER 15, 2018

Finalists will join more than 500 guests at the Brainerd Lakes Chamber’s Celebration of Excellence. After a video presentation and a dramatic drum roll, the Destination Downtown Business Challenge Winner will be named!

THE BIG REVEAL

NOVEMBER 15, 2018

Finalists will join more than 400 guests at the Brainerd Lakes Chamber’s Celebration of Excellence. After a video presentation and a dramatic drum roll, the Destination Downtown Business Challenge Winner will be named!

ELIGIBILITY

Business Challenge entries must present a for-profit business idea that will be operational by June 1, 2019. Ineligible entries include business relocations, nonprofit concepts, or purely aesthetic upgrades of existing businesses.

IDEAS MUST BE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:

A new business start-up
A second or third location of an existing business elsewhere
A significant expansion of a current downtown business with a new concept, product or service line

ELIGIBILITY

Business Challenge entries must present a for-profit business idea that will be operational by June 1, 2019. Ineligible entries include business relocations, nonprofit concepts, or purely aesthetic upgrades of existing businesses.

IDEAS MUST BE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:

A new business start-up
A second or third location of an existing business elsewhere
A significant expansion of a current downtown business with a new concept, product or service line

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

We want everything to be crystal clear before you throw your hat into the ring. Fill out this quick form, and a Steering Committee member will be in touch ASAP!

STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS:

Brady Bussler

Widseth Smith Nolting

Jennifer Bergman

Brainerd HRA

Nate Grotzke

Close-Converse

Ellen Haglin

LINDAR & Avantech

Matt Kilian

Brainerd Lakes Chamber

Sheila Haverkamp

BLAEDC

Ed Menk, Mayor of Brainerd

E.L. Menk Jewelers

Cassandra Torstenson

City of Brainerd

Greg Bergman

Small Business Development Center

Ginny Knudson

Borden Steinbauer Krueger & Knudson

Matt Seymour

Q Squares

Ann Smallman

Range, a Deluxe Company

Becky LaPlante

Pueringer Investments

Colleen Dols

Brainerd Lakes Chamber

Donna Ehnert

Brainerd Lakes Chamber

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

We want everything to be crystal clear before you throw your hat into the ring. Fill out this quick form, and a Steering Committee member will be in touch ASAP!

STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS:

Brady Bussler

Widseth Smith Nolting

Jennifer Bergman

Brainerd HRA

Nate Grotzke

Close-Converse

Ellen Haglin

LINDAR & Avantech

Matt Kilian

Brainerd Lakes Chamber

Sheila Haverkamp

BLAEDC

Ed Menk, Mayor of Brainerd

E.L. Menk Jewelers

Cassandra Torstenson

City of Brainerd

Greg Bergman

Small Business Development Center

Ginny Knudson

Borden Steinbauer Krueger & Knudson

Matt Seymour

Q Squares

Ann Smallman

Range, a Deluxe Company

Becky LaPlante

Pueringer Investments

Colleen Dols

Brainerd Lakes Chamber

Donna Ehnert

Brainerd Lakes Chamber

OFFICIAL CONTEST RULES AND TIMELINE

The winning business must open its doors by June 1, 2019.
For more important details about our process, you’ll want to take a gander.

OFFICIAL CONTEST RULES AND TIMELINE

The winning business must open its doors by June 1, 2019. For more important details about our process, you’ll want to take a gander.

APPLY TODAY

ANSWER 5 QUESTIONS TO START YOUR ADVENTURE

There are two ways to apply, apply online or download the PDF and mail it in.

APPLY TODAY

ANSWER 5 QUESTIONS TO START YOUR ADVENTURE

There are two ways to apply, apply online or download the PDF and mail it in.

THANKS (AGAIN) TO OUR PARTNERS

THANKS (AGAIN) TO OUR PARTNERS