Eight Businesses. $60,000. See Who Won a Share of the Prize

Lexington helps launch businesses in Shark Tank-like pitch competition, Launch Lex

By Lily Ghiz

Launch Lex Pitch Competition. Lily Ghiz/The Herald.

On Wednesday, April 11th, Main Street Lexington hosted a business competition entitled “Launch Lex.” Modeled after ABC’s popular reality show, Shark Tank, eight new and established business owners pitched their ideas for a share of a $60,000 prize.

The eight finalists each presented a three minute pitch, followed by a two minute period for questions from the judges. After deliberation, the judges chose four winners and decided how the $60,000 prize would be allocated to each of them.

The big winner of the night was Heliotrope Brewery, owned by Jenefer Davies and Erik Jones. They were awarded $20,000. Heliotrope Brewery will be a brew pub and tavern that will brew “to the seasons, using locally sourced ingredients.” They plan to use local farmers and local sources, hoping to “push the envelope on the brewing scene.”

Make it Sew, a business in downtown Lexington owned by Accacia Mullen, was awarded $15,000 to help fund expansion, additional equipment, and supplies. Make it Sew sells quality patterns and fabrics and offers sewing classes to the public.

Lex Running Shop, owned by Jess and Colin Reid, was also awarded $15,000. Lex Running is committed to helping customers “find gear best suited to their individual needs.” They offer quality shoes, apparel, and personal help when it comes to finding the perfect pair of running shoes.

The fourth winner of the night, Just Games Lexington, walked away with $10,000. Owned by Zander Tallman, Just Games encourages family bonding through non-electronic tabletop games. The store will sell multiple types of games, such as specialty board games, and will hold events and tournaments.

Left to right: Jenefer Davies, Accacia Mullen, Jess Reid, and Zander Tallman. Lily Ghiz/The Herald.

Main Street Lexington, volunteer-based organization, promotes and supports downtown Lexington through events like Launch Lex. In January 2018, several current and would-be business owners applied to be a part of a program that culminated in Lex Launch. Of the 24 selected to participate, 21 finished the program.

For eight weeks, the business owners attended weekly classes that taught them the ins and outs of running a business and helped them complete a business plan. They then submitted their plans to the judges, who chose eight finalists.

The goal of Launch Lex was to fill empty storefronts downtown and create jobs. The community business launch grant that provided the prize money stipulates that the businesses must be opened or expanded by September 30th, 2018.

While not everyone went home with prize money, other finalists are getting ready to open their businesses soon, including Cindy Hughes. Hughes has a daughter attending Southern Virginia and another who has graduated. Her husband, Jeff Hughes, is currently the bishop of the Buena Vista YSA 1st Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Hughes was one of the eight finalists to present a pitch. Although she was not awarded any money, she is preparing to open and is in the process of signing a lease on Main Street. “ “I’m in it and doing it and can’t turn back now,” she said.

Courtesy of Cindy Hughes

Her business, Sugar Maple Trading Co., will specialize in home decor, grooming products, cards, candy dishes, children’s products, and more. According to Hughes, the store will offer an exciting variety of products with changing themes and new items to discover.

“We specifically select products to help you make memories and celebrate moments in your life everyday,” said Hughes.

Sugar Maple has been an idea of Hughes’ for some time now; she first started planning it a year ago. Her daughter then told her about Launch Lex.

Hughes applied to the program and was accepted. “It has really sped things up,” she said. “It’s really doable… I’m really grateful for this opportunity because it has launched me to where I need to be.”

Sugar Maple became very personal for Hughes after her battle with cancer a few years ago. “ I went from living from holiday to holiday to living in the moments of each day. I found as I celebrated these moments in my day I was a lot happier… It helped me personalize what Sugar Maple was going to be about.”

Hughes hopes to involve the Southern Virginia community as much as possible by “catering to SVU, parents weekend, homecoming… we want to celebrate all of that.”

She also hopes that an opportunity to launch businesses in Buena Vista is in the city’s future. “It’s so helpful and so beneficial to any town and community.”