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Start-Up! winners get money to launch downtown ventures

South Boston News
From left, Taylor Jennings, Lauren Tetterton, Brodey Adamson, Jake Adamson, Brittany Adamson, Candace Baskervill, Nelson Baskervill, Mary Bagwell, Laksiha Jackson, Kolosa Surgeon-Johnson, Kecia Tucker-Kalu. (Images by Swanson photo)
SoVaNow.com / April 27, 2017

A bakery, health food store, expanded restaurant, personalized t-shirts and gifts store, clothing and accessories boutique, and a hybrid coffee shop/children’s boutique will be the newest businesses to open or expand on Main Street following Tuesday night’s SoBo Start-Up! Awards Ceremony.

The winners were among 12 businesses whittled down from an original field that exceeded 25 participants in the entrepreneur contest that launched earlier this year. The entrepreneurs vied for $52,500 in start-up costs plus $10,000 in goods and services to launch a business on Main Street.

The funding for this program requires the awarded businesses be open by September 30, although at least one of the business owners said they will be ready to open sooner.

The SoBo Start-Up! Program was one of five in the state which are part of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia Community Business Launch Initiative. SoBo Start-Up! is overseen by Destination Downtown South Boston.

Candace and Nelson Baskervill are receiving $10,000 in start-up funds. Candace and Nelson operate Sweet Cee’s, a growing customized apparel, decal and gifts business that has outgrown its current location in their basement. “We are looking forward to a brick and mortar store on Main Street. Because of our steady volume of incoming orders, our basement has started spilling over into other areas of the house. Nelson and our boys would love their man cave back!” Candace says.

In 2014, Candace overhead some parents at the baseball field discussing the high expensive “Ball Mom” apparel, for moms or parents wanting to show support for their children’s sports. Candace realized she had experience in graphic design, bookkeeping and education in business, so she began doing some research and playing with prototypes. Before she knew it, she was up and running. Candace has evolved from a tossed around idea from ballfield conversation, to a growing business through which she produces between fifty and two hundred pieces per week.

Mary Bagwell is receiving $10,000 in capital to expand Southern Plenty. The business began as a small coffee counter in the back of a fledgling bookstore in 2010. Mary has grown the business into a successful lunch hub of Downtown South Boston.

Mary’s plan is to obtain a needed hood, grill and fryer, enabling her to expand and provide fresh gourmet breakfast, fresh cooked gourmet burgers, catered dinners and in-store dinner hours. Mary wants an ice cream dipping cabinet downstairs and wants to create a new space upstairs. Her goal is a café extension upstairs which will offer more seating, Wi-Fi access to customers in the setting of an art and fine craft gallery, and a Pleasantries baking station. “I am excited to be able to attract more locals and tourists interested in a unique dining experience, all while continuing to highlight local art and specialty products,” Mary says.

Brittany Adamson is receiving $10,000 to open Joe and a Bow, a hybrid shop featuring coffee and a children’s boutique. Brittany operated a successful children’s boutique in Texas, and when she, her husband and their children recently relocated to South Boston with her husband’s job at ABB, Brittany saw a gap in the local market that she could fulfill – a coffee shop and a uniquely-focused children’s boutique.

The “Joe” portion of the shop will offer world class coffee while the “Bow” portion will provide high quality clothing at affordable prices. Shoppers can visit “Joe” and get the finest espresso in the region and then transition to the “Bow” section of the business to pick from the latest and greatest in kids fashion trends. “I am excited to introduce both high quality coffee and trendy children’s clothing to the local community and surrounding areas! We want to create personalized customer interaction for the people who visit our shop, whether they’re coming for coffee, for clothes, or both.”

Lakisha Jackson, who is receiving $7,500, is excited to open a brick-and-mortar storefront for KJ’s Cake Creations. Lakisha currently operates a successful small home-based cake decorating business which she began in November 2010.
Lakisha says, “Relocating and expanding my business to Downtown South Boston will allow me to serve more clientele and expose my product to a broader market.”

According to Lakisha, her main goal is to provide a unique creation and service to my customers. She wants visitors to her bakery to come in and leave with the assurance that she will be able to create or decorate a cake that will leave a lasting impression. She also wants to expose bakery visitors to more specialty cupcakes and cakes, which are as unique as customers themselves.

Kecia Tucker-Kalu, who has already secured a location for her retail space, will open a health food store, Manna “The Natural Experience”, at 217B Main Street. Kecia is receiving $5,000 to pursue her health initiatives and have a facility that promotes a well-rounded approach to well-being. At Manna “The Natural Experience,” the purpose is to promote a healthier lifestyle, provide an inviting atmosphere, while raising awareness on pursuing wellness naturally. Kecia plans to teach practical eating habits and offer natural products.

Kecia’s goal has always been to see everyone live healthier. She is known for catering vegetarian meals for individuals and church functions. She strives to offer the community a variety of natural alternatives, whole food supplements, and groceries, in lieu of processed foods. She wants to provide knowledge and encouragement to customers through weekly classes as well as offering natural beauty products, essential oils, aromatherapy, herbal teas, herbal supplements, and a variety of foods, drinks and other options that promote wellness.

Lauren Tetterton and Taylor Jennings are receiving $10,000 to open Southern Frills, a fun, sophisticated clothing and accessories boutique. Southern Frills will be a trendy clothing boutique with an inviting and lively atmosphere to attract local and visiting shoppers to the streets of downtown South Boston.

Lauren and Taylor plan to first establish a website to market and sell merchandise, which will be online and open for sales prior to opening their brick and mortar store. They plan to offer a customer-centric, personalized shopping experience. Their target customer base will be women ages 18 – 50. Lauren says, “We want to provide clothing options for women of all shapes and sizes. We want to attract women who want to look like a million bucks but do not want to spend a million bucks.” Taylor adds, “We want to attract working women in our community who want a shopping experience unique to them.”

Destination Downtown South Boston did a business needs survey in 2016 when they applied for SoBo Start-Up funding and these types of businesses ranked high in a business needs survey as needed businesses in Downtown South Boston.
Tamyra Vest, Executive Director of Destination Downtown South Boston, says “This is truly an exciting day for our area. Twenty-five businesses completed SoBo Start-Up! classes and most, if not all, are in a great position to open their businesses. While not all of the businesses decided to compete for funding, we believe all of them have the potential to be successful with their business ventures.”

Vest added, “Our local version of Shark Tank was uplifting. Starting a business is difficult – but these people are willing to put in the work, take the leap of faith, and set out on their own — taking risks, creating opportunity for others in the community and a future for themselves.”

“I congratulate these award recipients and look forward to their grand opening,” says South Boston Town Manager Tom Raab. “SoBo Start-Up! is one of the more impressive programs I have seen here. We are attracting people with all kinds of ideas. A person with an idea – that is the economy of the future.”

Lin Hite, Regional Director of Longwood Small Business Development Center, says, “It has been a pleasure to participate in this program and engage with all our participants during this entire competition process. I am looking forward to continue working with all participants - winners and non-winners - in opening their businesses. I consider them all to be winners.”

Entrepreneurs on Main Street are the answer to healing our economy and setting us up for success well into the future. It was great watching each of these entrepreneurs pitching their business plans, and working to turn those ideas - those dreams - into reality. They brought their passion to the table and put in the work to build solid plans. You’ll want to make a trek to Downtown South Boston to see the changes that happen because of this program and these businesses.”

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