Businesses specialize in fashion, auto service, juices & structural models.
Washington County just wrapped its annual Washington County Business Challenge – a program designed to support small business ventures in the area that has supported 20 startups and business expansions since the program’s inception in 2014. Each year, the business challenge awards money to new or first-time business owners as well as established business owners seeking to scale. The idea was the brainchild of county administrator Jason Berry who was the incubator director at the time.
“Small businesses because a major in economic development by supporting big business and the local community,â€ says Sandy Ratliff of VA Community Capital. “Our programs handholds you because we want you to succeed.”
The program awarded $15,000 in monetary awards to winning participants in its first year which grew to $33,000 in awards in 2019. The program offers six weeks of training that empowers them with tools to groom current business owners and business hopefuls for success whether they are looking to start a business or an established company looking to scale. Each week features a different topic, ranging from accounting and writing a business plan to marketing and financing a business.
During the last class, small businesses pitch their business idea in a manner similar to the popular television show Shark Tank. Judges grade businesses their pitches and their business plans and add the score determine the winners. Here are few of past attendees and participants.
Examples of previous participants and awardees include:
Lavelle Manufacturing in Glade Spring makes custom denim products, custom-made shoes, jewelry and other accessories, and higher end customer-requested products. Founded by Stephen Curd, a St. Louis transplant who spent 8 years honing his craft as a Chicago-based custom designer for private clientele before settling in Western Virginia, the former Washington Business County Challenge winner named his business after his seamstress-grandmother, Lavelle, who taught him to sew at age 2. Despite his previous track record, the business challenge helped him capture some of the local market with advertising and gave him $5,000 to support expansion. He has a manufacturing plant in Washington County and opened up a storefront 2 years ago. Today, Lavelle Manufacturing has a nationwide pool of clients.
Appalachian Drafting in Abingdon is a structural and miscellaneous steel detailing corporation owned by business challenge winner Steven Harris. His organization creates three-dimensional models from architectural structural drawings and field draws that facilitate steel and iron fabrication. The son of coal miners, the Richlands native’s services have a global demand. Harris has five employees.
White Birch Juice
White Birch Juice in Abingdon began as a juice operation offering an array of fresh, cold-pressed juices and smoothies in 2014. The company’s expansion included a restaurant on Main St. to offer a full menu that includes locally farmed nitrate-, nitrate- and antibiotic-free meats and seasonal, locally grown vegetables.
“[My] mission is to inspire and empower people to experience superior health and happiness through whole foods, made with love in forms of closest to those found in nature,â€ owner Nicole Dyer writes on her company’s website.
William Gibson, a 2015 participant, founded Gibson Service Center in Abingdon – a company that provides automotive service and repair. The son of a mechanic, Gibson initially got his start at age 15 working in a car shop. After spending nearly three decades as a Ford Motor Company employee, he decided to launch his own business as a means of financial security.
“I achieved my success through hard work and determination, but the business classes really helped me straighten out my bookkeeping,â€ Gibson says. He now employs seven full-time employees and two part time employees.