The Made in Bristol brand encompasses all small-scale production and manufacturing businesses in Bristol, Virginia and Tennessee. It has helped put Bristol on the map and made it easier for local producers and manufactures to thrive and promote their products outside of the local community.
The City of Bristol, in partnership with Believe in Bristol and Discover Bristol, created the Made in Bristol program to help grow Bristol and its local, small-scale manufacturing community. It all started with a Virginia Main Street pilot study in 2019 that identified and mapped linkages within the local, small-scale producer ecosystem. The study recommended creating a coordinated membership program as a catalyst, which now includes a branding and marketing campaign, website, and visit widget, along with training and grant opportunities.
A $150,000 Statewide Business District Resurgence Grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development supported the creation of the brand—formalizing the community and expanding their reach. Thanks in part to the grant funds, visitors can easily find locally produced and manufactured goods via the new Made in Bristol promotional rack card and website. The site features blog posts showcasing the program’s members and a visit widget, an integrated map (think virtual visitor guide) that links to their individual websites. And, all locally produced goods are now shipped with the newly created Made in Bristol promotional sticker.
The training element proved especially timely as businesses emerged from COVID lockdown and adapted their business models to the “new normal.” The educational opportunities offered through the program focused on specific needs for small-scale production, such as revamping existing websites and establishing ecommerce functionality.
The Resurgence Grant funds also provided a total of $65,000 in capacity building grants that went directly to local producers. Southern Churn, an ice cream and candy shop that specializes in homemade fudge, received such a grant and has since hired three new employees, bought two new freezers, updated their website, added online ordering capabilities, and enhanced their “Fundraising with Fudge” program, which enables them to support local organizations such as schools and churches.
“The exciting thing about this Made in Bristol grant is it allows us to expand space in our kitchen to be able to prepare and pack our Homemade fudge for our Hometown Fundraisers and larger wholesale orders. It also enables us to hire some part-time help. We are adding a new line of all-natural Lotus energy drinks that will be a new product offering in Downtown Bristol. One of the most exciting uses is for the revamp of our website that will allow customers to purchase our Homemade Fudge online! We will have the capabilities to ship all across the U.S.” -Karen Hester, Southern Churn
Mack Chapman, Economic Development Specialist at the City of Bristol, credits the program’s success to the local, small business community and their drive to grow. The program currently has 25 members, and it’s just getting started. According to Chapman, there are a number of small-scale producers in Bristol, Tennessee that they hope to recruit in the near future. The more local producers they can capture, the larger the program will be become, which means increased brand awareness and recognition—ultimately bringing more people to Bristol and shipping more goods out.