Statewide audience to determine $5000 winner of Entrepreneurship - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Statewide audience to determine $5000 winner of Entrepreneurship contest

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Fayetteville, W.Va. - One of four businesses will walk away from dinner with $5000 on Friday, September 25, 2015 as the training portion of the 8th Annual Create West Virginia Conference culminates. A panel of seven judges with expertise in venture capital, economic development and startups narrowed the field of 25 competitors to four. The dinner audience will have the final say as they cast their votes in real time to choose the winner of this year’s statewide business pitch contest. The cash award is sponsored by the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, and the competition is organized and managed this year by the region’s Valley Ventures Entrepreneurship Café, in partnership with NRGRDA, New River Community and Technical College and Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Authority and VisAbility, LLC. The $5000 prize is seed capital to be used to test business assumptions and develop key infrastructure that could benefit

communities, grow opportunities, and serve as a model project for other communities seeking to create an entrepreneurial culture.

“The four finalists are diverse, which is what we were hoping to see. It will be exciting to see how the crowd reacts to each pitch. This statewide pitch event may be just what others need to experience to get the ball rolling in their communities,” says Katie Ickes, program manager at Valley Ventures.

All four finalists will attend the three-day Create WV Conference courtesy of scholarships provided by Vision Shared.

The finalists in alphabetical order are

Hawk Knob Cidery and Meadery owned by Josh Bennett and Will Lewis of Lewisburg. It’s the first cidery in the state and one of three meaderies. Hawk Knob plans to grow a large percentage of their raw products and are building relationships with local farmers and bee keepers with a goal of offering 100% Appalachian products. The award would be spent on infrastructure necessary to self-distribute.

Smalmart.com is the brainchild of Thom Worlledge of Charleston. The concept is to combine small town hospitality with new technology. The funding will support the technical buildout of a website and develop a shopbot, or telepresence device. This project represents a new kind of shopping experience, not e-commerce or brick and mortar, but a little of both.

Richwood: A Solar City is a community endeavor spearheaded by the Richwood Chamber of Commerce and inspired by the 2013 Create WV Conference, which powered their Main Street with solar energy and brought experts into assess the town’s viability for renewable energy tax credits and solar power. The funding would be used to make the community library solar powered. The energy savings would be used to avoid limiting operational hours due to cutbacks. The library would be the city’s third project move them closer to their goal of becoming the first Solar City in the nation.

Sunset Berry and Produce Farm is owned by the Gilkerson family in Alderson. Jennifer Gilkerson has clientele including schools, restaurants, a grocery store and more. She cultivated a network of backyard farmers, who are now gainfully employed supplying food for her “personal farming service” known as a

Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). She delivers weekly food packages to over 70 subscribers. The funds will purchase and brand a used delivery vehicle.

Lillian Graning of New River Gorge Regional Development Authority ( NRGRDA) will serve as mistress of ceremonies for the competition. Register for the Conference at CreateWV.org. Individual dinner tickets for both Thursday and Friday evening dinner events may also be purchased via the registration page.

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