Fifteen budding entrepreneurs stood in front of nearly 100 Gloucester business leaders, community members and family and friends Thursday, March 12 in the Gloucester Main Street Center and introduced themselves and their vision for the business they hope to open along Gloucester Main Street this fall.
The entrepreneurs represented the 15 accepted business ideas into the Launch Gloucester program, the Virginia Community Business Launch program funded by the state and spearheaded by the Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust and Gloucester Main Street Association.
At this event – the Launch Gloucester Party – the entrepreneurs were joined by Virginia Del. Keith Hodges, Jenny Crittenden of the Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust, Ashley Gilmartin of the Gloucester Main Street Association, Margie Johnson of Shop Talk and Ernie Maddie of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
The DHCD is managing the Community Business Launch (CBL) program, developed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Three communities across the state were awarded $100,000 in December 2014 as part of the pilot program for the CBL. The CBL is designed to assist communities in taking a systems approach to defining and pursuing an asset-based small business development strategy.
The program called for grant recipients to use the community’s unique vision for its future and then design a local business competition to find and foster the entrepreneurs that connect with that vision.
In Gloucester, a team of local businesses, county government officials and boards and mentors added value to the program by donating time and discounted services to further help the businesses interested in applying to the contest prepare and refine their business plans.
The 15 businesses who spoke March 12 were selected out of more than 40 total applicants and will now go on to participate in eight weeks worth of business training classes that will help them refine and develop their business plans before pitching the ideas to a panel of judges later this spring.
Scoring on the business plan and the pitch will be used to select the winners who will receive start up capital, marketing services, and other launching assistance to open their business on Main Street before the year ends. The total combined value of the prize packages is $95,000.
The 15 businesses selected to compete for the start-up capital and launching support services include:
- All Things Sports, proposed by Kelly and Kelvin Cooper, aims to be a sporting goods store featuring sports gear, equipment, shoes, clothing and archery accessories to compliment the numerous athletes in Gloucester.
- Beautiful Plus Boutique, proposed by Raphaella Teschner, will exclusively sell plus-size women’s clothing, as well as fashion accessories. The boutique will provide a specialized, personal shopping experience.
- Blue Star Bikes, proposed by Shawn Powell, will open as a bicycle store that sells new bikes, a full selection of parts and service repairs. The business will specialize in bicycles, running and fitness.
- Creekside Café, proposed by Dorsie Reese, is an expansion of her current food truck and catering services. The café will offer coffee, pantry items and fresh prepared food, such as breads and pastries. Their menu would be based off of seasonal food and local ingredients.
- GEO Outdoor Outfitter Station, proposed by Elizabeth Richardson, would provide services for outfitters and engage the Gloucester Village in connecting with the environment. GEO will provide safe and supportive services that include an outfitters apparel shop, healthy food store and a charging station for cyclists.
- GoodLife Kitchen, proposed by Lorraine M. Walsh, will create an inviting retail store and a destination for worldwide cuisine. The space will lead the way to a larger classroom style exhibition kitchen of stadium style seating for guests to watch the preparation of a themed four-course meal paired with wines. Walsh is a Registered Nurse and aims to teach heart healthy cooking that still tastes good.
- Lighthouse Gifts, proposed by Rebecca and Jeffrey Carwell, is a gift store that will sell cards, gift items, balloons, gift baskets and woodcraft items. The business intends to sell local wares and merchandise from within the community.
- The NINES your Canine and Feline Boutique, proposed by Karin Fary will offer stylish clothing, accessories, collars and leashes for pets. The business will offer pet photography and several products, such as grooming supplies, organic treats and cat and dog products.
- Oak n’ Barrel, proposed Heather and Christopher Morgan, sets out to be a casual space that will incorporate local gift retail items, artists and bakers to create a “coffee shop” atmosphere that serves lunches and dinners with events on site.
- Pawsitive K9 Experience, proposed by Wanda Fary, will offer dog daycare, as well as dog training by an Animal Behavior College certified trainer. In addition, the business will sell dog trainer aids, pet accessories and homemade, grain-free treats.
- Sweet Tooth Parlor & Café, proposed by Crystal Burton, will be expanding into a full bakery and cafe consisting of fresh baked breads, cinnamon rolls, pastries, soups, salads and much more.
- TwiceAsNice Consignment Boutique, proposed by Nina. J Watkins, is a consignment store for women’s and children’s clothing and accessories that will compliment the existing shops along Main Street.
- The Village Blacksmith, proposed by George Cramer, will provide custom metal work, blacksmithing, bladesmithing, reproduction, restoration, repair, welding, fabrication training and consulting on low to high end custom metal work.
- Essential Wellness, proposed by Jill Reece, Ginger Platsis and Holly Basta, will support the balance of body, mind and spirit through exceptional service, healing foods, a juice bar and a variety of products and workshops that advocate wellness.
- Gloucester Juice Bar, proposed by Rachel Cuba will offer freshly squeezed juices and blended smoothies made from organic, local, and seasonal fruits and veggies.
Learn more about the contestants, how to launch a business, doing business on Main Street in Gloucester and more on LaunchGloucester.com. Want to get involved? Contact the Launch Gloucester team at firstname.lastname@example.org.