A new business plans to open in downtown Macon as the winner of the Macon Mogul business competition by The Gateway Initiative.
Savannah-based TailsSpin, a premium pet food and accessories retailer, was named the winning business Thursday morning at the Cox Capitol Theatre.
TailsSpin was chosen from 16 finalists in the competition created to encourage small-business ventures in downtown Macon. Winning the competition brings a startup prize package valued at more than $50,000 in products and services geared toward helping the young business grow.
“When we were invited to be a finalist, we were so overwhelmed,” said TailsSpin co-owner Jusak Yang Bernhard. “Our mission has always been to create a community and reach out and to be a bridge between pet owners, government agencies and pet welfare agencies as well.”
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TailsSpin offers high-end quality food and supplies for those important members of the family -- dogs and cats. It was created in 2007 and employs 18 people in its Savannah and Pooler stores. It plans to hire four employees initially in Macon and hopes to be open within four months.
Beth Dunwody, executive director of The Gateway Initiative, said while everyone couldn’t win the top prize, she said some of the other finalists have received offers of assistance to locate downtown.
“As you can imagine, this was an extremely difficult decision for our jurors,” Dunwody said. “We are not through with you yet. Our goal is to see each and every one of you opening downtown in the near future.”
The Macon Mogul program began in October 2010. Initially about 90 applications were submitted, and that number was narrowed down to 20 finalists.
Four finalists withdrew from the competition or did not complete the required business plan.
TailsSpin gets involved in the community and does fundraisers to help animals, and has donated more than 10 percent of its profits to animal welfare, Bernhard said. It also will work with local animal adoption agencies to help find homes for dogs and cats.
“We operate TailsSpin out of our hearts,” he said. “We are so excited to be here.”
Part of the prize package is one year’s rent paid for by the Peyton Anderson Foundation. Also the package includes for one year: Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce membership, mentorship by a local business executive, business startup legal services, accounting services, logo and corporate identity package and media advertising schedules.
“All the finalists had a passion for what they were doing, they had a sense of what was required to be successful and they had actually put some dedicated thought into the resources that Macon had,” said Matthew Liao-Troth, with Georgia College & State University and one of the judges. “They just needed a little bit to open a shop downtown.”
Since TailsSpin is an established business, the judges “had a good sense of how healthy financially they were over the last couple of years, and it was easier to predict how successful they will be going forward,” Liao-Troth said. “All of (the finalists) had a really good grasp of what they were doing, so our challenge was to figure out which one would be successful not just one year, but five years, 10 years from now downtown.”
The owners of TailsSpin -- Bernhard and Jeff Manley as well as general manager Brad Tatom and Colby Branum, who will manage the Macon store -- lost no time in searching for a place to set up shop. As soon as the announcement event was over Thursday, Hal Baskin, director of business and real estate development with NewTown Macon, took all of them to see several vacant properties.
The tour began at the Newman building on the corner of Poplar and First streets, where at least four former retail spaces could be combined for the new company. Bernard and Manley discussed issues such as where deliveries could be made and how the space could be configured.
Baskin planned to show them seven potential spots to rent, he said.
“We have tried to identify some places, give them a quick look and them tell us which ones they want to come back to,” he said.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.