DOVER — Winners of the $20,000 Dover Launch business plan contest, Tory Welsh and Tobin Twelves, want to open an indoor golf and multi-sport simulator facility in town.
“I think we can all agree there’s plenty to do in our area on a sunny day or on a bluebird ski day, whatever it may be,” Twelves said while presenting Thursday night in the final round of the contest. “What about when it’s raining? What about mud season?”
The married couple lives in Wilmington. Twelves is a local realtor, general contractor, snowboard coach and golf enthusiast. Welsh is an IT professional who works at the Mount Snow ski resort in West Dover and enjoys skiing, hiking and reading.
They want to call their business The Dover Lounge. They estimate their market is made up of about 4,000 local residents between Dover and Wilmington, and about 20,000 annual tourists. They expect to spend about $1,500 a month on an initial marketing effort with ads promoting mid-week specials to attract locals and weekend events to bring in tourists.
They will need to raise about $500,000 in start-up funds. Their hope is to have four simulator bays and charge each customer $5 to play games that in addition to golf could include baseball, dodgeball, football and soccer.
Twelves said the $20,000 will go toward down payments or leasing the simulators, outfitting the space, construction costs or buying inventory.
“The key to winning this competition tonight is that it will show other investors and lenders the viability of our plan,” he said.
Their current plan would have the business open by July 4. However, the couple said plans will be revised in January based on investor interest.
“We’re going to hit it hard,” Twelves told the Reformer, referring to seeking investors.
Town staff will help the couple figure out where to allocate the $20,000 then provide funds upon receiving invoices. Part of the process entails leasing or buying space in Dover.
After opening the contest in August, 13 applications were submitted. The other finalist who presented Thursday was Dana Sorice, a human rights attorney who lives in Dover with her husband Mark Sorice, a carpenter.
They want to bring go-carts to Dover.
“Our idea is very fluid,” Dana said. “We want a family entertainment center where everyone can come and bring the kids and race. And if you’re not into racing, you can do an arcade game. If you don’t like arcades, maybe you like pinball or ski ball or a rock climbing wall.”
Similar to the winning proposal, the idea is meant to offer something to do on a day when outdoor activities are off the table and would require a lot of financing.
“I’m not sure we’re looking for investors,” Dana said. “I’d rather sell a kidney first.”
Dana said the couple is “blessed to call this place our home.”
“This was our dream,” she said, adding that the couple went go-cart racing years ago and thought it would make “a great business.”
About 40 people attended Thursday’s event at the Carinthia base lodge at Mount Snow. Attendees were able to ask questions during presentations and speak with the finalists privately before the judges chose the winner then again afterwards.
Eric Durocher, economic development director for the town of Dover, said community members came out to a brainstorming session at the end of the August to talk about ideas for potential businesses for the contest. He anticipates some of those ideas could still become realities.
The town has programs and incentives “to start or grow your business here,” Durocher said. Information can be found at doververmont.com/economicdevelopment.
Mentors to contest participants included Shelly Huber of Creatin’ Business, Jim Verzino of Windham Grows, Gretchen Havreluk of Ingram & May Small Business Consulting, and Eyad Salha, business technical assistance provider at Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.
Judges for the contest included Dover resident Paul Fisher, Dover-based Sticky Fingers Bakery co-owner Heather Kelly, Mount Snow General Manager Tracy Bartels, Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. Director of Business Acceleration and Community Capital Development R.T. Brown and Assistance Vice President of Commercial Banking at Brattleboro Savings & Loan Robert Davis.