Excitingly, four existing or planned downtown Norton businesses are sharing $60,000 in cash prizes after pitching their businesses to a panel of judges at the end of a five-week business plan training course. Partnering with Virginia DHCD through its Community Business Launch grant program, the 2021 Norton Business Challenge is the second such competition that the City has hosted since 2016, this time being open to both existing downtown businesses with expansion plans and entrepreneurs with start-up venture ideas.
The 2021 Norton Business Challenge winners were:
- Sugar Hill Cidery – $20,000
- Southern Roots Refurbishing – $15,000
- Appalachian Southern Books – $12,000
- Lovely Lucy’s Flowers – $12,000.
Sugar Hill Cidery will use it prize funds to build out the upper story of an old car dealership for special event and performance space complimentary to its restaurant below. Both Southern Roots Refurbishing and Appalachian Books will use their prize funds toward expanding their existing retail floor space and for meeting space to host educational workshops. Lovely Lucy’s plans to move from a mobile retail unit to a brick and mortar location in downtown Norton for the first time. All winners must have a physical storefront presence in the Park Avenue downtown area and add something new to the area’s current business mix.
The Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College partnered with the City to provide training and coaching sessions for several businesses in addition to the pitch contest participants.
Check out a few testimonials below from Challenge participants / winners:
“The training was very, very insightful. For someone who hasn’t started a business, it helps you to not make mistakes that other new businesses have made before.” – Patrick Thomas, Southern Roots Refurbishing
“The Small Business Challenge was a wonderful experience because we were able to connect and learn with other small businesses in Norton!” – Carlie Thomlinson, Appalachian Books
“It’s an amazing opportunity for a start-up or someone who wants to expand an existing business. The City really cares about entrepreneurs! – Kaely Salyer, Lovely Lucy’s
“I like how the Challenge picked a bookstore, a floral shop, a refurbishing store and a restaurant. For downtown Norton, it’s a great mix!” – Jennifer Bailey, Sugar Hill Cidery