UVM Grad Wins $200K Grand Prize to Help His Painting Business Grow | True 802 | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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UVM Grad Wins $200K Grand Prize to Help His Painting Business Grow


Published June 5, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

Zach Dunn - COURTESY
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  • Zach Dunn

Zach Dunn has more work this summer than he can handle. The house-painting company he started with two friends is booked out until next year.

In April, the trio, whose company is called Painting With Purpose, won more than $200,000 in a University of Vermont entrepreneurship contest, a huge boon for their small biz. The "purpose" is the company's pledge to donate 1 to 1.5 percent of its profits to the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity's Samaritan House in St. Albans, which helps people pay their first month's rent, utilities and security deposit as part of getting people out of homeless shelters.

"So far that has had a very high rate of success in terms of how many people accept the money and never become homeless again," Dunn said.

Dunn, 23, graduated from UVM last year. He and his partners, Jake Falanga and Josh Malek, are trying to decide how to spend their winnings in a way that will help their nine-person St. Albans-based company continue to thrive.

"We have a number of options, and one of them is definitely getting more vehicles," Dunn said. A company vehicle was recently hit by a drunk driver while it was parked, forcing him to lend his truck to an employee and take an Uber himself to deliver an estimate. He'd also like to increase the size of the company.

Painting With Purpose's windfall comes from a new pitch contest, the Joy and Jerry Meyers Cup, that Chip and Louise Meyers started last year. The couple named the prize after Chip's parents, UVM graduates.

The contest rewards undergraduates or teams that come up with a great idea and plan for turning it into a business. The prize includes $212,000, access to office space at the Hula coworking complex in Burlington, and mentoring and professional advice.

Eleven teams applied for the Meyers Cup in January, and three semifinalists ultimately presented their business plans to a panel of judges.

"This is probably the largest undergraduate business plan contest in the country," Chip Meyers said in an interview after the winners were chosen in April. He said the cash prize and the professional services are worth a combined $500,000. "It's going to change lives forever. "

Dunn thinks his company won because it has already shown staying power, with more than $1 million in revenue over two years.

"We're a low-risk investment for a contest that is just beginning," he said.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Picture Perfect"

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