Mayor Weinberger Announces Winners of First Mayor's Prize to Support Entrepreneurship


December 14, 2017
Contact:  Gillian Nanton, CEDO, 802-865-7179

                 Diana Colangelo, CEDO, 617-447-7905
                 Katie Vane, Mayor’s Office, 802-734-0617


Mayor Weinberger Announces Winners of First Mayor’s Prize to Support Entrepreneurship
In Partnership with Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, City Awards $200,000 in First Year of Two-Year Competition


Burlington, VT – Mayor Weinberger today announced the winners of the first Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship, launched in early October to increase support for entrepreneurs in the City of Burlington. Collectively, the winning organizations provide a broad range of support services and work with a diverse mix of entrepreneurs. The top four prize winners are:


  • The Center for Women and Enterprise: Awarded $55,000 to launch a new initiative, Power Forward, an accelerator program to support high growth women-owned firms across all sectors.


  • BTV Ignite: Awarded $50,000 to fund a new initiative, BTV Ignite Growth Acceleration Program, that will focus on providing high-quality independent specialized advisory and development support to “growth stage” companies with a digital or technology focus.


  • Vermont Law School: Awarded $50,000 to help fund a program that provides free or low-cost legal services to startup and emerging companies in Burlington, with a focus on sustainable or green businesses striving to reach a “triple bottom line” related to social, environmental and financial outcomes.


  • Women’s Small Business Program: Awarded $45,000 to expand their existing program to better support and engage their alumni network, strengthen their entrepreneurial team to enhance support to entrepreneurs and allow for new, innovative programs.


“I am proud to announce the winners of the first-ever Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship to four diverse organizations that will help local entrepreneurs succeed and make Burlington their home,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger.  “I am particularly excited that two of the groups support women-owned businesses. Creating more women-owned businesses is critical for achieving gender pay equity and is a huge economic development opportunity for Vermont.”

As noted in the 2016 Change the Story Status Report, women-owned businesses generate 9 percent of gross revenues and employ 12 percent of workers in privately-held Vermont firms. If women were to choose business ownership at the same rate as men, it would result in more than 10,500 new businesses.


“CEDO was delighted to partner with the Kauffman Foundation on the Mayor’s Prize,” said Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) Director Noelle MacKay. “These grant funds provide support to Burlington’s entrepreneurs and will help them up their game and spur even greater innovation and economic activity.”


The Mayor’s Prize was a competitive process where entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) that serve Burlington entrepreneurs were invited to submit proposals for either the expansion of a successful program or to support the creation of a new, innovative program that addresses the needs of entrepreneurs. Proposals were evaluated by a Judging Committee comprised of seven people with expertise in various entrepreneurship-related fields and drawn from local and national organizations.  Judging Committee members were:


  • Justin Wicks, Chief Financial Officer, (Burlington, VT)
  • Dr. JaNay Queen Nazaire, Managing Director for Performance and Results, Living Cities, (Washington, D.C.)
  • Greg Huysman, Senior Business Development Manager, Opportunities Credit Union, (Winooski, VT)
  • Dr. Elizabeth Mack, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
  • Paul J. Corson, Director of Entrepreneurship, University of Utah, (Park City, UT)
  • Brooke Gillman, Managing Director, Marketing and Communication, eSecLending (Burlington, VT)
  • Gillian Nanton, Assistant Director, Sustainability, Housing & Economic Development, Community and Economic Development Office (Burlington, VT)


Mayor’s Prize Award

The Mayor’s Prize will award at least $100,000 to entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) next fall in a second funding round. The goal of the Mayor’s Prize is to foster the growth and development of entrepreneurship in the city and encourage outside-the-box thinking about how best to achieve this. The Mayor’s Prize is entirely funded by a grant from the Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which has also supported the Let’s Talk Progress speaker series.


Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private foundation established in the mid-1960s by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, and is based in Kansas City, MO.  The Foundation works in the areas of entrepreneurship and education.  In 2015, the City of Burlington was chosen as one of two cities for the Kauffman Foundation’s Metro Strategy initiative, a pilot project which sought to work cooperatively with two communities in the country to develop a strategy that would improve conditions for entrepreneurial growth in those communities and bring up to $500,000 in programmatic grant-making. As part of this initiative, Kauffman Program Officers visited Burlington several times over the ensuing months and conducted a landscape analysis of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. 


Based on this analysis, the “Let’s Talk Progress” speaker series was launched by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce with funding from Kauffman in June 2017, and the Foundation worked with CEDO on a strategy for disbursing the remainder of the grant funds in a transparent, competitive, and equitable manner, which resulted in the Mayor’s Prize. This competition is based on a similar model in Albuquerque.  


More information may be found on CEDO’s website at



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