Downtown Business Improvement Area’s Win This Space competition

Do you have an amazing business idea? Do you already run a business that needs support or exposure in the local community? In that case, you need to enter the Downtown Business Improvement Area’s Win This Space competition. Minimal paperwork and a 3 minute video detailing your business idea could enable you to win 12 months of free rent in one of six vacant storefronts in downtown Peterborough. Along with free rent, the winner will receive a business support package including their own app, office furniture, a photocopier, a laptop, website development and a marketing strategy.

The DBIA’s director Terry Guiel explains that the idea came from a fruitful experience at the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association’s annual conference in London, Ontario. “Huron East was running a version of the contest, which was an idea that had been paid forward from another community. The prize for their contest was something like $750 a month and I thought, we can do it bigger. Put steroids on it!” Pitching the concept around Peterborough, Guiel had no trouble in finding sponsors to back the competition. The DBIA found backing through the many business incubators and development agencies operating in the community. “With Trent University incubating entrepreneurs, the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster, Venture North, Peterborough Economic Development, StartUP Peterborough and the CFDC all helping to build new business in the community the garden is ripe,” says Guiel. With the support of those community organizations alongside local businesses, the prize package is truly outstanding. It is not, however, just the contest winner who benefits.

After the deadline for submissions closes, the judges will chose ten finalists to move forward. The finalists will be required to attend three training sessions to help them polish their idea. As Guiel explains it, “The final ten will go through intensive training sessions. The first focused on marketing, the second business development and the third financial forecasting. At the end of the competition one will win, but there will be nine others with credible business plans. We hope that they will consider pursuing their ideas here in Peterborough.”

Downtown Peterborough is bursting with culinary enterprises. The food services industry has found a niche in the beautiful and historic center of our city, but there has been a big decline in retail establishments. Guiel feels that downtown is a natural fit for entrepreneurs and explains that this contest is “our direct approach to take on vacancies and the decline of the retail sector in the downtown. Retail is so important here because our downtown is also a highly populated residential area. It will provide a necessary draw.”

When asked for tips on what he thinks will set video applications apart, Guiel’s advice is twofold. “The idea has got to be something unique that will catch the attention of the judges. Also, I believe the successful candidates will present a character, a face for the project. It’s people that sell a business. Let out your personality and inspire others.” The competition is open to anyone 19 and over legally living in Ontario. The rules and regulations, entry forms and real estate listings for the spaces up for grabs can be found at

With the DBIA hoping to make the Win This Space competition an annual one, now is a great time to dust off your thinking caps and come up with a stellar business idea. “We see amazing success coming out of Trent, [coupon service] Ribbet being one of them. I’m privately hoping for a young entrepreneur to win,” says Guiel of his personal hope for the outcome. These days there are so few career opportunities post-graduation, it is comforting to know that the community is working to assist residents in creating new industry.