Eight aspiring entrepreneurs pitched their business proposals to a panel of five judges Thursday evening in front of an auditorium full of supporters at The Forum in downtown Macomb. It was winner-take-all for the $28,000 in cash and prizes to help start the business.
At the end of the evening, the judges chose the proposed microbrewery, Forgottonia Brewing.
“We’re very excited to open in Macomb. We’re very excited to serve the people of Macomb and the surrounding area. We want to see this succeed and see this town succeed,” said Sean West, a part-owner who will be the head brewer.
“It brings something to this town that we don’t have right now.”
Forgottonia Brewing will be located in the former Rock N Records building on Route 67 near the railroad crossing. West feels it’s a great location that’s within easy walking distance of the downtown.
And he said the building, which is currently empty, is ready to be transformed.
“Right now it’s basically a shell, which is exactly what we want. We can build it out the way that we need it,” he said.
West said Forgottonia Brewing will have a tap room and an outdoor beer garden. It will feature six seasonally rotating beers, a guest tap to highlight other local beers and ciders, and an in-house seltzer water that will be blended with homemade syrups to create non-alcoholic sodas and root beers.
He said the business will not be a restaurant but it will offer locally sourced snacks, and he anticipated creating events for which the brewery can partner with local restaurants and/or food trucks.
West said he is passionate about beer.
“I believe it has more flavor options than any other alcoholic beverage, I believe that it is the beverage of moderation, and I believe there is a quick turnaround – there is instant feedback. Whereas wine and spirits can take years to age in barrels, I can turn around a beer in just a couple of weeks and get that feedback directly,” he said.
“And beer is delicious.”
The business competition requires the winner to set up shop within the next year. West is confident they can meet that deadline and he’s hopeful it can open as early as the Spring.
“The support that I’ve gotten from this community because of this competition has been amazing,” he said.
West said the other competitors were passionate about their projects and he hopes they all carry on and succeed.
Downtown Development Director Kristin Terry agreed.
“It’s so great to see the community come out here and support these people and support the new entrepreneurs that want to start in Macomb,” she said.
Terry said Forgottonia Brewing’s business plan to become Macomb's first craft brewery was “pretty perfect,” which ended up giving it the edge over the other competitors:
- Bird Bites Bakery & Gifts: A bakery offering homemade specialties in bite-sized portions
- Cookie Frenzy Bakery: A startup bakery café specializing in gourmet cookies
- Crafty Coop, LLC: Paint your own pottery and craft studio
- Galla Fabrication, LLC: Manufactures tassel holders and other specialty metal products for graduations & awards
- Lakeview Medical and Psychiatric Healthcare: Bringing accessible psychological services to Macomb
- Macomb Dining Company: High-quality restaurant serving everything from lemon chicken pasta to chargrilled steaks
- Tartarus: Combines a bakery and candy shoppe.
Terry said one of the eight plans pitched was not eligible for the prize because it is a service rather than a business selling goods. It was allowed to give one of the public presentations because its owners completed the lengthy training program held as part of the business competition.
That business, Lakeview Medical and Psychiatric Healthcare, still plans to open soon and will hold an open house on Wednesday, August 15, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at 1601 W. Jackson St., Suite 104.
Terry said 15 people signed up for the training but several dropped out early on after learning about how much goes into running a business.
The city hosted the competition in an effort to drum up new retail business for the downtown. It was open to anyone with a business idea. Participants received training from Jim Boyd of the Small Business Development Center at Western Illinois University. He instructed them on how to run their business, assemble a business plan, and pitch their ideas