STARTUP awards two food-centric businesses

Published 10:40 am Monday, November 22, 2021

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STARTUP Franklin Southampton held its awards night at Main Event in Franklin on Nov. 10 as two young businesses received significant financial support via the first and second prizes handed out.

Functioning as a program designed to motivate prospective business owners to follow through on their entrepreneurial ideas, STARTUP Franklin Southampton is a business plan competition.

“We’re very excited by how the program went this year,” Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc.’s Ashley C. Covington said to open the awards night event.

In 2021, STARTUP received 32 applications. Of that number, 28 qualified and 18 participants attended the required classes, which included Accounting, Finance and Credit, Branding and Marketing, Business Planning, Business 101 and Business Plan Study Hall.

Covington stated in an email promoting the awards night that on Nov. 3, “We had 10 businesses pitch their dreams to a panel of judges, showcasing their hard work that has been put into this program. They all attended the required six classes and submitted business plans that were scored as well.”

STARTUP’s first-place prize of $20,000 went to Scott Maynard and Heidi Maynard and their business Simply Prepared, and the second-place prize of $10,000 went to Paula Dullas and Arcel Dullas and their business Farm Fed.

In her reaction to winning first place, Heidi Maynard emphasized that she and Scott were going to pursue their business regardless, but she indicated that receiving the $20,000 was a step in aiding their outreach to the community.

“It’s a huge honor,” she said. “We’ve worked in the community for a long time, so to be a part of a community event like this is really awesome.”

She is a nurse at Bon Secours Southampton Medical Center, and Scott, who was a paramedic for the city of Franklin, is now the emergency manager/safety officer at the hospital.

“Simply Prepared LLC is a labor-of-love project,” Heidi said. “We started on our own health and wellness journey about two years ago, started preparing our meals for us and were just kind of posting on social media about it. After we started posting on social media about it, a lot of people reached out to us (and said,) ‘Hey, what are y’all doing?’

“Nic Hagen, down from Serve (Restaurant and Taphouse), he actually got on board, and he was like, ‘I really think you guys need to make this a thing,’” she continued. “And so from that, we named it, and it’s now a thing.”

She said the business is their way of reaching back out to people.

“We’ve both been in the medical profession so long that we see a need for not only medicine but something realer than that in primary prevention through what people consume, and the nutrition that they put in their bodies can really change a lot of things,” she said. “I think our favorite statistic is 80% of chronic disease can be reversed or prevented through lifestyle modification, and lifestyle modification being what you eat, what you consume.”

Scott said the business idea for providing healthy, nutritious meals predated the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic helped the venture blossom because people were looking for other avenues for food outside of fast food options.

Simply Prepared is getting ready to move into a former location of Mr. D’s Southern Kitchen and Catering on Armory Drive.

Heidi said the $20,000 is going to “accelerate our get-in-the-door storefront process, so we’re very excited about that.”

Paula Dullas shared what the $10,000 prize meant to her when she noted that it will definitely help get Farm Fed going.

“That’s for sure,” she said. “We’ve been planning this for a while, and we thought that we might have a chance, and so we applied, and the fact that we got $10,000, it’s awesome.”

Her explanation of her business began with the Dullases’ farm, which is located in Capron, right off U.S. 58.

“We raise livestock for meat and eggs, and we noticed that not too many people are courageous enough to try products that are raised on the farm, so we decided to start cooking our products and sell them at the farmer’s market,” Paula said. 

She noted they started at a market in Hampton because that was the market that had spots available, and they have since gone to other markets, including those in Western Branch, Chesapeake, Smithfield and Franklin.

“We’ve been frying our chicken,” she said. “It comes straight from the farm, going to the farmer’s market and to the plates of our customers, and we’ve been selling out, selling out, selling out.”

Then the Dullases decided that a food truck could make things much easier.

“When you cook meat, especially, you have to have a very strict setup, so the health department is involved,” Paula said. “They had to get us inspected, and then you have to have all these tables with all this stuff on them, and it’s very hard to go to the farmer’s markets.

“The food truck will have everything in there — we’ve just got to bring the product, cook it and serve it,” she added. “It just makes it easier.”

“Right now we’re under a canopy,” Arcel said, describing Farm Fed’s pre-food truck state. “We bring the tables.”

Paula said, “It takes us about an hour to pack it up, and then we have an hour to set up and then another hour to clean, and then another hour to unpack.”

She said that the $10,000 prize money is going to help them purchase the food truck.

Plans are already being formed for other things the food truck will make possible.

“We’re looking forward to being able to cook more of our meals, not just chicken but the pork and the turkey, and then we want to partner with the local farms so we can add some of their products as well, such as beef and seasonal vegetables, maybe get some sweets,” Paula said. “I’m not a good baker, but there’s much potential to put in the food truck from other local businesses.”

After announcing the winners, Covington said that as an added bonus, both winners will be getting local marketing dollars that they will put back into the community through The Tidewater News and the radio station to advertise and get their word out within the community. 

And she made it clear the other participants in the STARTUP Franklin Southampton program were not forgotten.

“To everybody else that pitched, please come to us — we will help you start your business any way that we can,” she said. “You all did fantastic, and we want to help every single one of you open your business.”