March 7, 2007 -- An organic beauty bar, custom wallpaper, and a clothes-rental service were among the finalists in Microsoft's Ultimate Challenger contest, a nationwide search for the best small-business idea, the company announced this week.

The contest, which kicked off in New York last fall, attracted 5,000 entrepreneurs from across the country with a wide array of innovative ideas, the company said.

The four finalists include: a team of spoken word poets from New Jersey looking to open a themed restaurant and teaching facility; an artist from Florida who wants to create a custom wallpaper business; a former Wall Street employee who wants to create a clothing rental service for young women; and a woman from Maryland who wants to launch an organic beauty bar.

The winner will be chosen online by popular vote and will receive $100,000 in business startup capital, a rent-free Manhattan storefront for a year, and services and software from Microsoft to help run their business, the company said.

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Published on: Mar 7, 2007