Bon Secours and the Virginia Local Initiatives Support Coalition are planting a second round of seeds for business growth in Richmond’s East End.
The health systems company is funding LISC’s second Supporting East End Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) business plan competition this fall. The contest will award a total of $50,000 to neighborhood businesses in what LISC found to be an underserved part of town.
“One of the things that neighborhood residents commented on was a lack of neighborhood based services,” said LISC Executive Director Candice Streett. “Small things, things like a bakery or having some new restaurants.”
Last year’s inaugural contest awarded six businesses between $4,600 and $10,000 each in grants. Winners included a bakery, a pie shop and a salon.
Last year’s grantees are eligible for this year’s contest, but their maximum winnings will be capped at half of last year’s award. At least three prior winners have indicated that they intend to reapply.
Among them is Jodi Burton of J. Burton Hauling and Disposal. She used a $7,900 grant to buy a trailer and an electric lift and to pay for advertising. Nikki Price at Proper Pie Company purchased baking equipment with a $10,000 grant last year.
The SEED contest is a two-stage competition. First, LISC will whittle the initial applicant pool down to about 10 finalists. Then each finalist will give a five-minute presentation to a panel of judges who will make the final award decisions.
Last year’s judges included Diana Cantor, a partner at Alternative Investment Management LLC and former executive director of the Virginia College Savings Plan, and Virginia Credit Union CEO Jane Watkins.
“Folks have to be able, in a five-minute presentation, to sell some very seasoned people what they are trying to create,” Streett said.
Streett expects about 30 applications this year and hopes to give out about eight awards. Winners will also receive business and marketing coaching from Richmond-based Blueberry Marketing.
This is the second year of a three-year contract for the contest. Bon Secours has pledged $50,000 for each year. To be eligible for a grant, businesses must be within the 23223 Zip code, preferably along the 25th Street and Nine Mile Road corridor.
LISC has about invested about $16 million in the East End over the past 20 years, Street said, and Bon Secours operates the Richmond Community Hospital on North 28th Street, just off Nine Mile Road.
There will a SEED information sessions July 21 at the East District Initiative Building on 25th Street. Business plans must be submitted by Sept. 1, and applications can be found at the East End Vision website.