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Hopeful startups make their pitch

Eleven business owners tells judges why they should receive grants

FRANKLIN

Owners of 11 prospective businesses who want to establish a permanent site in Franklin or Southampton County made their pitch to four judges on May 29 in the Main Event on Main Street in downtown. This was for the third annual STARTUP, which was established by the Downtown Franklin Association and Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc.

Ashley Covington of FSEDI said this program is “always a big event,” and thanked the sponsors who have helped to make it all possible. At stake are two grants, one of $20,000 and the other for $10,000. The money is to be used by year’s end for establishing the business, such equipment, inventory, renovations or rent.

Dan Howe, director of the DFA, told the applicants that even if they don’t get either grant, “they are still winners” for having worked to create their businesses so far. “Find a way to make it happen.”

Judges were Lynette Allston, Joe Edenfield, Judy Winslow, and Katrina Manley, who was last year’s winner for her shop, Spoken Interiors. Their decisions will be announced today, June 5, beginning at 5:30 p.m., in the same site as the pitch.

At the start of the pitching, Michael Parker said he’s really tired of the lack of culture in the city. He asked where can children, veterans, retirees and young professionals go to experience such things. Parker, who already owns Vintage, then promoted his plan for Studio Cinema and Arts. In addition to having space for a small movie space and stage for live theater, there would be a bistro/pub, a rooftop bar and Palate Creamery, which would serve ice cream.

“I’m asking you to change downtown Franklin,” said Parker.

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Keli Jo Judas visualizes a place where craftsmen and artisans can produce and sell their handiwork at what would be Franklin Crafters Gallery. She brought examples of professional-looking items such as her handmade afghans.

Vendors that Judas has personally interviewed would be able to regularly come into set up and sell their own wares at their prices.

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Num E Nums Bakery is Kristy Nublin’s idea. What sets her business apart is the ability to make baked goods that can be vegan or gluten-free, an option that she says is difficult to find without traveling many miles elsewhere.

Her baking experience goes back 20 years, having learned from family such as grandparents.

“Franklin is losing money that I could be bringing in,” said Nublin, who added she already travels hours to conduct her business here and there. Her hope is to buy, rather than rent a place that would be a base of operations.

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Retro Flex LLC, designed by Hunter and Cristii Darden, would be a 24-hour gym and would feature the exercise equipment needed by people wanting to train above and beyond the weights and machinery used for toning or basic strength-training in other facilities.

As proof of their commitment to health, both were looking visibly buff. Christii, by the way, was a fitness trainer in the Navy before retiring.

Hunter, a registered nurse and graduate of Chowan University, said the couple’s mission is “to inspire people to be the best versions of themselves.”

They would also offer training that could be done in person or even online from their website.

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Paula Dozier of Savvy Events asked the judges and everyone else in room, “Why pay more for less,” when it comes to acquiring all the items needed for special occasions such as wedding receptions, parties, reunions and the like.

“I can just about do it all for reasonable prices,” she said.

Dozier wants to provide the “one-stop shop” for her customers, showing examples of floral centerpieces that could be bought or rented, as well as acrylic sheets on which wedding vows could be inscribed and later framed after the ceremonies.

Her hope is to get a permanent base next to the Kathara Spa.

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Robyn Elliott showed the judges an example of what happened to a woman with a medical issue who could not get reliable transportation to doctor’s appointments. In short, the delays in getting attention to her condition nearly cost the woman some of her toes.

Elliott Transportation LLC is her plan to provide people guaranteed safe, compassionate, reliable and on-time transport to appointments, such as doctor’s offices, dialysis or physical therapy.

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With a site already in Newport News, Sherita Jenkins wants to bring her business of S&J School of Nail Technology to Western Tidewater. She has been doing such work since 1998.

“I teach nails, but also how to run a business,” said Jenkins, who said that all of her students have a 100 percent pass rate.

As in her existing school and two salons, cleanliness in all aspects will be stressed.

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Kasey and Delia Square said they want Storehouse to be more than just a coffee shop, they want it to be a place where moments can be made and treasured. The couple has been working on fixing up a place on Second Avenue right next to Lavender and Lace, which has hosted several pop-ups.

The couple said their business philosophy also embodies promoting family values of kindness and love. The shop would be a place to create or relax and, of course, enjoyed really good coffee. They would have three part-time employees. The intention is to also host music events.

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Sully’s Run Equine Services LLC is Melanie Huss’s program that uses horses as therapy. Her three animals — Ashley, Cocoa and Sherman — would naturally stay on the farm in Carrsville. A building in downtown would serve as both an intake office and area for art therapy.

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Aime M. Powell of Slash Decors and Rentals said she has several years of experience arranging weddings and decorating for families and friends. She’s available to arrange parties such as at Christmas time.

“I was asked to do a Valentine’s Day dinner at the college, and I thought they were the ugliest decorations,” Powell told the judges about her start. “But from there I got six more appointments. I fell in love with my hobby.”

She has a place to store what is for her work, but is intent on getting a place where customers can come in to see what’s available.

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Latoya Powell’s Breathe Dance Studios is intended to be a place for children and adults to learn a variety of expressive movement, such as for praise dancing.

“Dance is my passion,” said Powell, who added she has over 23 years experience.

In addition to instruction, her studio would sell equipment that dancers might need for their own performances.

As a way of showing more than telling, Powell brought her daughter and niece to perform with her for a short piece.

•••

Sully’s Run Equine Services LLC is Melanie Huss’s program that uses horses as therapy. Her three animals — Ashley, Cocoa and Sherman — would naturally stay on the farm in Carrsville. A building in downtown would serve as both an intake office and area for art therapy.

•••

Aime M. Powell of Slash Decors and Rentals said she has several years of experience arranging weddings and decorating for families and friends. She’s available to arrange parties such as at Christmas time.

“I was asked to do a Valentine’s Day dinner at the college, and I thought they were the ugliest decorations,” Powell told the judges about her start. “But from there I got six more appointments. I fell in love with my hobby.”

She has a place to store what is for her work, but is intent on getting a place where customers can come in to see what’s available.

•••

Latoya Powell’s Breathe Dance Studios is intended to be a place for children and adults to learn a variety of expressive movement, such as for praise dancing.

“Dance is my passion,” said Powell, who added she has over 23 years experience.

In addition to instruction, her studio would sell equipment that dancers might need for their own performances.

As a way of showing more than telling, Powell brought her daughter and niece to perform with her for a short piece.

The judges’ decisions will be announced on Wednesday, June 5, beginning at 5:30 p.m., in the same site as the pitch.