Culpeper Competes Announces Awards to Four Businesses for Startup and Expansion

Excitingly, the Town of Culpeper’s Tourism & Economic Development Department announced that four Culpeper Competes entrepreneur’s had been awarded $45,000 in grants and prizes! The nine-week entrepreneurship education competition program was designed for entrepreneurs planning to open a new brick and mortar business in downtown Culpeper, for existing downtown businesses that had innovative ideas on how to expand and grow their business and for any existing business that planned to expand to a location in downtown Culpeper.

Culpeper Tourism and Economic Development partnered with the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center, Germanna Community College, UVA Community Credit Union, Pepperberries, Charles Ryan Associates, Clark & Walker PLLC, and several downtown Culpeper business owners to present the seven-week workshop, covering topics from starting a small business to accounting/finance and credit, operations/legal and leadership, and sales/marketing and branding. During the eighth week of the course, competitors meet with mentors from the Small Business Development Center, the Rappahannock Rapidan Regional Commission, Town of Culpeper staff and First Heritage Mortgage to prepare for pitch night. Ultimately, 12 out of 27 participants went head-to-head in a pitch competition for $45,000 in grants and prizes!

“Competition was fierce, our competitors presented 3D printing manufacturing, aeroponic tower farming, craftsman custom furniture, retail healthcare, consulting services, and multiple culinary delights. Each presentation was filled with vision, market data, financial planning and strategy. I left that night feeling grateful I wasn’t a judge because I believe all 12 businesses should be businesses in Culpeper, and I look forward to continuing to support our competitors and entrepreneurs in helping bring their dreams to life.”

Paige Read, Director of Tourism and Economic Development, Town of Culpeper

A panel of three judges scored each business on their written plan and pitch, and Graze to Griddle, an expansion project, took first place, winning $20,000 plus prizes!

“We are so very humbled to have been part of Culpeper Competes! Worth far more than the monetary value of winning, is the vote of confidence received from the judges of the competition who see our dedication for creating something very special for Culpeper! Working with Megan Gray and Paige Reed of the Town of Culpeper Economic Development has been a sincere pleasure, and we are excited to begin planning with them toward a permanent home for Graze to Griddle in Culpeper!” – Corey Ritchie, Owner, Graze to Griddle

Culpeper Cheese Company, a re-launch project took second place, winning $10,000 plus prizes!

“Wow, just wow! I could not ‘Brie’ happier. With this grant, you ‘Feta’ believe that cheese in Culpeper is ‘Gouda!’ This is amazing – I am gobsmacked. Seriously though, the learning part of the competition was like bringing mortar to stacked bricks – so many parts of the business came together. Solidified. Thank you Culpeper Competes team! I am looking forward to our return to the market and thinking about a big cheesy party!”

Jeffrey Mitchell, Owner, Culpeper Cheese Company

Libertas Integrative Health, an expansion project took third place, winning $7,500 plus prizes!

“The program provided an excellent, systematic approach to business planning and strategizing along with the tools and resources to implement and execute the business with a plan. I plan on utilizing the funds to maximize our IV therapies and provide for adding ionic foot detoxing to our services offered.”

Sarah Russell, Owner, Libertas Integrative Health

PepBoba, a specialty bubble tea and food shop serving organic healthy teas and small plates to locals and visitors, took fourth place, winning $5,000 plus prizes!

“I felt that the program provided us with a lot of informative information, there were things that I didn’t have any where to begin when you want to start a business. They always answered all of my questions and concerns about starting my business. I will utilize this grant to start the paperwork and to buy the material that I need to start PepBoba. I want to thank Megan Gray and everyone who took a little bit of their time to teach all of us entrepreneurs something new.” – Deborah Galan, Owner, PepBoba

“It has been an honor to guide and walk alongside our 27 participants and 12 competitors. For the past nine weeks, I’ve been impressed by the level of program engagement. The talent and passion of entrepreneurs in Culpeper gives hope to our communities’ future. A perfect example is Japreshia Clark, competitor for Pen 2 Paper. Japreshia didn’t win one of the grant prizes, but impressed the judges so much she took home ‘Best Pitch’ valued at $500!”

Megan Gray, Culpeper Competes Program Director

“All in all, I entered this competition excited, knowing I was going to win! Whether I was the top prize winner or not, the information that was being provided for free over the eight weeks still gave me the foundation I needed to start my own business.” – Japreshia Clark, Owner, Pen 2 Paper

Culpeper’s Tourism and Economic Development Department received a $45,000 Community Business Launch grant from the VA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), enabling the creation of Culpeper Competes. It remains the goal of the department to continue the program in future years as funding allows.