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From Start-Up Grants to Public Acclaim

WAYNESBORO – This winter in Waynesboro, local entrepreneurs working to launch new businesses in 2017 are beginning in-depth training and rigorous preparations for start-up grant awards. Meanwhile, high-profile start-ups from 2016 are already reporting new jobs, significant buildouts, and a growing impact on the local economy.

Grow Waynesboro, a local initiative of the City of Waynesboro’s Economic Development Department, is focused on finding and funding new waves of start-up businesses. For two years in a row, it has provided training, grants, and marketing support to local entrepreneurs. This January, the initiative celebrated receiving twenty-eight small business start-up proposals for the 2017 round of training and funding to be awarded at a live Pitch Night April 13th at Basic City Beer Company. Now in February, Grow Waynesboro is proud to release updates on the progress and accomplishments of its 2016 entrepreneurs.

Ula Tortilla, Make Waynesboro, and the Faded Poppy were all part of a cohort of 2016 businesses that were vetted through a panel of local judges. While two-dozen entrepreneurs proposed ideas and received access to business training opportunities, these three businesses collectively received more than $21,000 in start-up grant awards. Looking back, their growth has been swift, and the entrepreneurs behind their successes continue to look to 2017 as year of progress and development:

Ula Tortilla reports that they searched far and wide for the perfect tortilla, before founding Ula Tortilla. Today, they make local tortillas using organic, non-GMO corn and an ancient process called nixtamalization to produce more nutritious and flavorful products. They directed the majority of their Grow Waynesboro grant funds to complete a buildout at the Mill at South River, utilizing Waynesboro’s strong heritage of manufacturing and open-floor industrial space for their value-added food processing techniques. In addition to opening their doors and beginning to process, package, and distribute in Waynesboro, they received a 2016 Virginia Living Award for one of the best “Made in Virginia” products in the food category.

Make Waynesboro has joined Ula Tortilla at the Mill at South River, likewise utilizing historic manufacturing space to fuel a renaissance in local light- and artisan-manufacturing. Specializing in pottery and ceramics, they are installing kilns, pottery wheels, a clay trap, and a classroom studio. In addition to coordinating with clay artists in the region to teach classes, they have also partnered with the Shenandoah Valley Art Center to obtain retail space for their products, demonstrating the power of entrepreneurial collaboration in growing and sustaining vibrant local economies. Like Ula, they won a 2016 Virginia Living “Made in Virginia” award, this time as the category winner in the design. They also won the first-place award for pottery in the Shenandoah Valley Art Center’s Fall Foliage Festival Art Show.

The Faded Poppy supplies flowers, planning, and day-of coordination services to weddings around the region. This past August, they celebrated their own big day when they opened their new storefront in the 220 Rosser Ave studios. With almost 50 clients in 2016, they are growing rapidly into 2017 and have brought on a new staff accountant, with additional staffing expansions anticipated this spring. Receiving significant regional media coverage from both WHSV and NBC/Channel 29, they were also featured on wedding blogs including Style Me Pretty, Glamour & Grace, Chic Vintage Bride, Virginia Bride Magazine, and more. They received the Virginia Living award for the Best Event Planner of 2016, along with the 2017 Couple’s Choice Award from Wedding Wire.

“The diversity, success, and public acclaim of or 2016 entrepreneurs is both exciting and promising,” says Courtney Cranor, Assistant Economic Development and Tourism Director for the City of Waynesboro.  “Their track record demonstrates that our efforts to find, fund, cultivate, and grow the impacts of local entrepreneurs has been successful. Looking forward to 2017, we see these 2016 successes as the beginning of a trend, celebrating and enhancing the long-term viability of our local economy.”

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