The Piedmont Retail Business Challenge

    The Piedmont Retail Business Challenge is different from most business plan competitions in that it is not hosted by an institute of higher learning or a capital venture company. Its organizer is a mall company, CBL and Associates, and its focus is turning out the best retail store to fit in three of the company’s malls in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina. The contest is also funded by Southern Community Bank and Trust, which provides a “Small Business Banking” package to the winners.

    Many other competitions focus on teaching competitors to create a cohesive, well-thought-out business plan, and mentoring them with successful business owners in the area to help them bring their ideas to life. Runners-up get a smaller amount of money, but they get the valuable experience of going through the business plan process. It’s all very academic.

    The Piedmont Retail Business Challenge is more of a nitty-gritty, real-world exercise where mall experts take a look at what their competitors bring to the table, give the best what they need to succeed in an actual shopping center, and get out of their way. The rest are given a pat on the head and not much more. You can almost hear “the Donald” delivering his catch-phrase to the underperformers: “You’re fired.”

    Actual prizes in the Piedmont Retail Business Challenge depend on which mall the winners end up in. The Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, the biggest mall in the state of North Carolina, delivers a prize package worth just under $50,000, including free retail space in the mall for 6 months; free advertising on television, radio, newspapers and in the mall; graphic design and printing; and office supplies. Similar packages are offered at two other malls: the winner for Oak Hollow Mall in High Point gets more than $100,000 in goods and services (including one year of rent in the mall), and the best entrant at Randolph Mall in Asheboro brings home almost $40,000 worth of prizes.

    Examples of recent winners include a specialty Shea butter shop at the Hanes Mall, a laid-back clothing retailer in Oak Hollow, and a candle and kitchen gadget store at the Randolph site. For more information about the contest, email contest organizers at