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LAKE ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A competition is underway aimed at helping small businesses grow. Six companies are vying for some real estate in The Meadows of Lake St. Louis, and business owners pitched their plan in a ‘Shark Tank’-style presentation Wednesday evening.

The competition called “RetailNEXT: The Next Big Thing in Retail” kicked off in March. Forty contestants applied, and it has been whittled down to six finalists.

Before a crowd of supporters and onlookers, contestants shared their ideas and explained why their business will be a hit in The Meadows,

Three contestants want to spark creativity with do-it-yourself workshop concepts including home décor, flower arranging, and sustainable clothing design.

Two contestants hope to work their way into the hearts of voters by appealing to their stomachs. One business will offer traditional gourmet Mexican ice pops and another will serve safe-to-eat raw cookie dough.

One plan brings the best goods from local farmers and vendors to one convenient location.

A panel of judges made up of local business leaders, academics and investors critiqued the contestants on how unique the concept is and how attractive the idea will be to potential customers.

The winner of RetailNEXT will win retail space at The Meadows rent-free for a year, plus build-out, mentoring, and marketing support.

The decision is not solely left in the hands of the judges. Anyone can vote for their favorite business idea. More than 4,000 votes were entered in the first five days of the competition.

Voting is open until Sunday, September 15 at 9 p.m. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 16.

To learn more about the contestants and submit a vote, visit