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Community Spotlight: Skowhegan Center for Entrepreneurship

April 21, 2022 | Community Spotlight: Skowhegan Center for Entrepreneurship | By: Marta Olmos, Communications Coordinator at Main Street America |
Main Street Skowhegan Executive Director Kristina Cannon cuts the ribbon during the grand opening of the Skowhegan Center for Entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy of Kristina Cannon.

Last week, Main Street Skowhegan opened their new Skowhegan Center for Entrepreneurship, a downtown space for co-working, meeting, entrepreneurial support, trainings, and education. “The Center is for the community, business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs, local youth, and anyone passing through who needs a place to co-work,” said Main Street Skowhegan Executive Director Kristina Cannon.

In 2020, Skowhegan was selected as one of three Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Pilot Program communities in the state of Maine. As part of the program, a team of stakeholders gathered and evaluated Skowhegan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem using surveys, virtual focus groups, and a specialized assessment from Main Street America. Armed with all this information and grant funding from the Maine Community Foundation, Main Street Skowhegan drafted an implementation plan for bolstering their entrepreneurial ecosystem.
After engaging 135 business owners and hearing positive feedback from a significant percentage of them, Main Street Skowhegan began searching for a space to lease and hired a new staff member to run the Center. “It's important to have data, a plan, and strategies for success before applying for funding,” said Kristina Cannon. “Start small and figure out how to make the budget work to ensure future sustainability."
Partnerships were key to the program from the beginning. When Main Street Skowhegan applied to be an entrepreneurial ecosystems pilot community, they reached out to core local partners, including the Town of Skowhegan, the Skowhegan Economic Development Corporation, and the Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce. They also developed new partnerships with the school district and the Somerset Career and Technical Center. Partners brought subject-matter expertise, new contacts, and additional voices to advocate for the project. Since the project launched, even more partners have been brought on, including Dirigo Labs, a Build-to-Scale EDA-funded accelerator.

“If you're interested in developing a Center for Entrepreneurship in your own community, I would recommend bringing together a team and starting with a local assessment of the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Kristina Cannon. The long-term goals of the center include helping to attract, retain, and grow businesses, assisting entrepreneurs, and cultivating a strengthened and diversified business ecosystem in Skowhegan.