MIDDLETOWN – Ali Haney, of Shenandoah Seasonal, won both the People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice awards along with over $5,000 in prize money in a “Shark Tank” TV show-like competition held this week at Lord Fairfax Community College.
The Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center and Bright Box, along with other sponsors, hosted the Regional Initiative Supporting Entrepreneurship (RISE), at the college on Tuesday evening. Small business owners from around the region participated in a six-week education program on building and writing business plans. Their plans were presented to a panel of judges, and five finalists vied for funding to use at their business during the event on Tuesday.
Master of Ceremonies Andy Gyurisin said the participants put in a lot of hard work and dedication to create the presentations.
One of the judges, Marilyn Finnemore, of Bright Box, said she has been an entrepreneur since childhood and understands the struggles and excitement entrepreneurs face on a daily basis.
“I think that supporting and encouraging entrepreneurs and small businesses is vital to maintaining the vitality of Shenandoah Valley,” she added. “There is nothing better in the world than taking your passion and making it a reality.”
This year’s finalists included Millissa Marshall of Brag Swag, Dian DiPasquale of Front Royal Premier Copiers, Shae Parker of Shae Parker’s Hanna Signs, Ali Haney of Shenandoah Seasonal, and Craig Laird of The Vine & Leaf.
During her pitch presentation to the panel of judges and audience members, which included a five-minute presentation followed by a five-minute question and answer session, Haney gave a brief overview of her farm and what she would do with her prize money.
Haney said she and her husband Daniel own a four-season organic farm in Boyce, which offers a variety of high-quality organic food to the community.
“We focus on freshness and quality,” she said. “We grow food that you can’t find in the grocery store.”
She said the prize money will be used to “give our community access to the food that we grow by opening an on-site farm store.”
With her prize money, she added that $4,000 will be used for constructing the farm store building, with another $1,000 to be used for the gravel pad and parking lot.
Haney and her husband began the organic farm five years ago and she said they have seen tremendous growth. In 2012, they grossed $19,500 and in 2016, they brought in $90,100.
“We’re on track to reach our sales goal of $120,000 this year,” she said. “Just as our farm has grown in the last five years, so too has the demand for organic produce. It is a booming industry. It’s becoming more and more mainstream.”
Haney won the Judge’s Choice award of $5,000, plus an advertising and chamber membership package totaling over $2,500. She also won the People’s Choice award of $680.
Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org