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Christmas tree business owner wins $5000 in entrepreneur contest – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel

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Matt Quinn, 43, of Cornville competed Saturday against a handful of other entrepreneurs at the Skowhegan Center for Entrepreneurship, in a bid to win money to start a new business or expand an existing one.
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Matt Quinn of Cornville touts plans for his Christmas tree business Saturday as part of the Business Lab Final Pitch Contest at the Skowhegan Center for Entrepreneurship. Quinn’s presentation won $5,000 from Skowhegan Savings Bank. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel
SKOWHEGAN — Matt Quinn stood confidently in front of his audience Saturday, touting the benefits of his business, Cornville Christmas Tree Company LLC.
He immediately drew laughter as he disputed the claim of a former speaker who said money doesn’t grow on trees.
“I’m here to tell you that it does,” he said.
Quinn, 43, and a handful of other entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, were competing for a $5,000 prize as part of the first Business Lab Final Pitch Contest presented by Main Street Skowhegan. They stood before an audience of about 30, including three judges, at the Skowhegan Center for Entrepreneurship, to pitch their business ideas.
Quinn, who later was announced the winner, already owns the Christmas tree business, which operates Quinn Tree Farm, but he is working to expand it. He said if he were to be awarded the $5,000 Skowhegan Savings Bank pitched in as the prize, he would buy a tree shaker, which shakes unwanted items such as dry needles from the trees, and a wreath-making machine, which would save time and money. The bank sponsored Saturday’s event.
In his enthusiastic and entertaining presentation, Quinn said his father, Jeffrey, instilled in him a love of horticulture, and friends and family show up every November and December to help get the trees out to where they need to go.

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“You have a Christmas tree stand, you need a Christmas tree,” he said. “We’re offering a place for your family to make memories.”
Quinn, who has been a full-time Skowhegan firefighter for seven years and a volunteer 16 years before that, said his customer base is primarily people within about a 25-mile radius.
“They come to the farm, they cut down their trees and they’re happy,” he said.
The farm sells about 1,200 trees wholesale and those are sold and purchased by people all up and down the East coast.
“We are an environmentally friendly, environmentally sustainable, business,” Quinn said.
An acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people a day and provides habitat for songbirds, deer, squirrels, skunks, wasps, bees and other animals, he said. The farm plants two to three seedlings for every tree it harvests and last year, Quinn said, he planted 2,500 trees and grossed $35,000 in sales of not only trees, but wreaths, garlands and related items. This year, he hopes to gross $65,000. He said he also is looking for more land to grow trees on and he doesn’t have to own the land. Landowners get a share of profits.

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Quinn and the other contestants had spent seven previous Saturdays taking a course at the Skowhegan Center for Entrepreneurship, which opened in April at 181 Water St. and is a program of Main Street Skowhegan. They listened to speakers and learned about business vision, mission and values, as well as finance and accounting, marketing customers, sales and project management. They also practiced their business pitches. The course facilitator was Patric Moore, business relations manager for Skowhegan Main Street.
“They’ve been putting in a lot of work over the seven weeks,” Moore said after Saturday’s event.
Other contestants Saturday were Heather Hutchins, who owns a salon but pitched a new business, Rock Bottom Cafe, which she said would be a comfortable coffee lounge that offers a quick, homemade breakfast, with inside and outside seating; Joe Almand, who is developing Joe’s Flat Iron Cafe in the former Paper Klip space in downtown Skowhegan and said he was not eligible for the $5,000 prize because he is on the board of directors for Main Street Skowhegan and Moore is his landlord; Noah Sixberry, owner of Sixberry Solutions, a digital marketing agency specializing in search engine optimization, business profile management and social media management; and Sara Forbus, who wants to start a traveling food truck with homemade fare that she would set up at sporting events, weddings, festivals and for companies.
Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, welcomed the participants and audience members Saturday, explaining that Main Street is a nonprofit working to help revitalize Skowhegan, and that includes supporting businesses and entrepreneurs so that they thrive.
“There’s a number of things we’re working on to help boost our ecosystem for entrepreneurs and businesses,” Cannon said.
She said more businesses and prospective businesses will take the center’s course, which will continue to work with businesses after they complete it.

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“We’re really thrilled that Skowhegan Savings Bank said, ‘Yes, we’ll support you again,’” she said.
Saturday’s judges were Angel Quick, the bank’s vice president of treasury and bank services, who announced the winner; Peter Piconi of the Maine Small Business Development Center; and Kim Kennedy, who is in business administration and a faculty member at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield.
Almand, the husband of Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand, said in his pitch that on July 26 he fell 25 feet into the Kennebec River Gorge, which led to the end of his career as a firefighter. He broke a bone in his face, as well as three ribs and both wrists and he sustained other injuries, including a significant brain injury.
“That made me have to make new decisions,” he said of his plan to open a cafe downtown.
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