Mayor Weinberger Announces Winners of Second Mayor's Prize for Entrepreneurship




October 16, 2018

Contacts: Olivia LaVecchia, Mayor’s Office

      (802) 734-0617


      Gillian Nanton, CEDO

                  (802) 865-7179


Mayor Weinberger Announces Winners of Second Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship

In partnership with Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the City awards $100,000 in second year of competition.


Burlington, VT – Mayor Weinberger today awarded $100,000 in grants to help entrepreneurs start and grow more businesses in Burlington. Fully funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship was first launched in October 2017 as a way to increase support for innovation and entrepreneurship in Burlington.


The winners of the 2018 Burlington Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship are:


  • Generator: $50,000 awarded to Generator, Burlington’s largest makerspace, which provides the tools, training, community, and workspace to help makers test, evolve, prototype, and bring their best concepts to market. With this award, Generator will complete a four-fold expansion of its JumpStart program, which provides founder education and support for early stage entrepreneurs.
  • The Center for Women and Enterprise: $25,000 awarded to the Center for Women and Enterprise to build on the success of its Power Forward program, a four-month accelerator designed to support women-owned firms. With the award, CWE will expand this program to the food and retail industries, and also launch a new Retail Bootcamp initiative, an eight-week course designed to help retail entrepreneurs open a brick-and-mortar business.
  • Women’s Small Business Program - Mercy Connections: $25,000 awarded to the Women’s Small Business Program, which provides business and financial education to aspiring women entrepreneurs. With the award, WSBP will activate its extensive alumnae network and expand into new initiatives, including specialized workshops, peer-to-peer exchanges, and mentoring networks.


“I am proud to award the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship to these three organizations, which work to help local entrepreneurs succeed and in turn drive economic development in Burlington,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “As the City works hard to make Burlington a great place to live, work, and do business, part of our role is to invest in the people and organizations that are making an impact. I’m appreciative of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Found ation for recognizing Burlington’s potential and ambition and providing us the support that allowed us to create this award, and I’m excited to see how these three organizations use these funds to spark innovation and entrepreneurship in Burlington.” 


“CEDO was delighted to partner with the Kauffman Foundation on the Mayor’s Prize for the second year in a row,” said Gillian Nanton, Assistant Director of the Burlington Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO). “These grant funds will provide support to Burlington’s entrepreneurs, and I’m especially proud that the Mayor’s Prize continues to empower women entrepreneurs here in Vermont.”


Both the Center for Women & Enterprise and the Women’s Small Business Program – Mercy Connections were also recipients of the Mayor’s Prize in 2017, the first year of the award. That year, Mayor Weinberger awarded $200,000 in grants to four organizations.


The Mayor’s Prize is awarded as a result of a competitive process. In that process, entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) that serve Burlington entrepreneurs were invited to submit proposals either to expand a successful program, or to support the creation of a new program that addresses the needs of entrepreneurs. This year, a judging panel of six members with expertise in entrepreneurship-related fields, drawn from both local and national organizations, reviewed the proposals to select the winners. The competition received five applications. The members of the Judging Committee were:

  • Justin Wick, Chief Financial Officer, (Burlington, VT)
  • Paul J. Corson, Director of Entrepreneurship, University of Utah (Park City, UT)
  • Brooke Gillman, Managing Director of Marketing and Communications, eSecLending (Burlington, VT)
  • Dr. Elizabeth Mack, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
  • Lazarus Manrique, Statewide Small Business Lender, Opportunities Credit Union (Burlington, VT)
  • Gillian Nanton, Assistant Director, Sustainability, Housing, and Economic Development, City of Burlington Community and Economic Development Office (Burlington, VT)


The awardees of this year’s Mayor’s Prize shared the following about what the award means for their organizations:


"Generator is proud to be a recipient of this year’s Mayor's Prize for Entrepreneurship,” said Chris Thompson, Executive Director of Generator. “This award will be crucial to allow us to expand our successful JumpStart program focused on providing high-quality founder education for early stage entrepreneurs. In particular, we are excited to be launching a summer incubator to help college students launch businesses in Vermont, as well as a business bootcamp for artist entrepreneurs next fall.”


“With the support of the Mayor’s Prize, our Power Forward and Retail Bootcamp programs will fuel women-owned firms with the knowledge and networks they need to grow strategically and effectively,” said Gwen Pokalo, the Director of the Center for Women and Enterprise Vermont. “We’re proud to work with the Mayor to offer meaningful, effective programming to an oft-underserved group of business owners.”


“Mercy Connections is honored and grateful to be receiving a second iteration of the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship in support of our Women’s Small Business Program,” said Lisa Falcone, the Executive Director of Mercy Connections. “2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the WSBP, and the Mayor’s Prize will allow us to elevate our educational offerings and alumnae network, and highlight the remarkable contributions of women business owners to the Vermont economy.”


About the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship

The goal of the Mayor’s Prize is to foster the growth and development of entrepreneurship in Burlington 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.


About the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private foundation, is a recognized leader on entrepreneurship. Established in the mid-1960s by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is based in Kansas City, MO. In 2015, the City of Burlington was chosen as one of two cities for the Kauffman Foundation’s Metro Strategy initiative, a pilot project that 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 grantmaking. 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, in June 2017, the Foundation supported an eight-part speaker series, “Let’s Talk Progress,” about Burlington’s potential and how smart growth can help the City get there. The series was produced by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce in association with community partners. Additionally, 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.  


For more information, see CEDO’s website at


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