STARTUP hands out 5th round of awards

Published 8:49 pm Thursday, June 8, 2023

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The STARTUP Franklin Southampton program held its Awards Night ceremony on Wednesday, May 31, at the Main Event in downtown Franklin as two members of the 2023 class received prizes to help them get their businesses started.

Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. administers the STARTUP program, which FSEDI describes as a business competition that provides financial assistance and business training for those aspiring to start a for-profit business within the city of Franklin or Southampton County limits.

The fifth installment of the program is nearing a close, and winning the grand prize of $20,000 on May 31 was West Wellness Company, which provides health care, including chiropractic care, functional medicine, massage therapy and physiotherapy. 

Winning the second-place prize of $17,000 was The Knotted Thistle LLC, which utilizes laser cutting to create everything from earrings to signs.

“This is the end and it’s the beginning at the same time,” FSEDI President and CEO Karl T. Heck said to all participants at the ceremony. “So hopefully it’s the end of STARTUP, and it’s the beginning of your business journey as a new business owner. We all are here to wish you well and help you take the next step into actual business.”

He noted that the first- and second-place winners also receive a year’s membership in the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Including this round of prizes, STARTUP has awarded $190,000 over the five rounds, and with the two prizes this time, there will be a total of 13 prizes that have been awarded,” he said.

He also noted that over its brief history, the program has had “10 winners, nine class participants that opened, so just a reminder that if you don’t win a prize, it doesn’t mean you don’t open. The real prize is opening your business, and the last class that we did in the fall of ’21, we had two prize winners, we had four other people who have started businesses, and a fifth is on the way.”

Because of its effectiveness, STARTUP has received a 2020 Gold Award from the International Economic Development Council and also the 2022 Virginia Economic Developers Association’s Community Economic Development Award.

Heck explained that the program’s 2023 class had 16 applications, 14 people qualified for STARTUP, and 12 attended at least one of the classes.

FSEDI Business Development Manager Kim Tucker noted to The Tidewater News that there were six mandatory classes led by Camp Community College’s Dr. Joe Edenfield.

“Contestants had to be represented at all six classes plus a business plan study hall in order to participate in ‘Pitch Night,’” she stated.

The six classes were as follows:

  • Class No. 1 — Business Overview;
  • Class No. 2 — Innovation Branding and Leadership;
  • Class No. 3 — Accounting;
  • Class No. 4 — Finance and Credit;
  • Class No. 5 — Sales and Marketing; and
  • Class No. 6 — Business Planning.

Following is the complete list of the final eight participants that made it to “Pitch Night” where they pitched their business ideas:

  • West Wellness Company;
  • The Knotted Thistle LLC;
  • B&B Cleaners and Designs;
  • Home Cooke’d Catering;
  • Alternative Herbal Solutions;
  • Sweet Dreams Treats;
  • Start Up Essentials LLC; and 
  • The Waxtender Experience.


Sharing her reaction to winning the STARTUP grand prize, West Wellness Company co-owner Jordan West said, “It’s a dream come true, honestly. It’s just nice to know that I’ll be able to break even pretty quickly upon opening. Just really excited to be able to actually serve the community now and not be worried about dollar signs floating over my head.”

She credited co-owner Brett Smith for his key role that led to the win.

“Wouldn’t have been able to do it without him; he did all the classes for us, and my mom, as well, did all the classes with him, and then I was able to step in at the end and do our pitch and get everything together,” she said.

Smith described STARTUP as “an amazing program. It’s helping bring Franklin-Southampton County back to where it used to be.”

West is a doctor of chiropractic care, and the company’s website, notes that evidence-based chiropractic care is the cornerstone of the company’s services.

Highlighting the company’s other services, the website also provides a description of the functional medicine offered, stating that it is “a ‘new’ way of treating illness that involves finding and treating the root cause of disease instead of treating the symptoms with excess pharmaceuticals and surgery.”

In terms of massage therapy, the website notes that the other key staff member listed for West Wellness Company, Trista Johnson, is a therapist trained in all forms of therapeutic massage.

West is board certified in physiotherapy, and the website states that she believes treating the muscular system is just as important as treating its partner, the skeletal.

West Wellness Company is located at 105 W. 1st Ave. in Franklin, and the business held an open house Saturday, June 3.

“For the first little bit that we’re open, I’ll just be part time, and it’ll be Tuesday mornings, Thursday evenings and then Friday all day and then possibly some Saturdays in there too,” West said.

She recommended the website,, as an ideal resource for booking appointments.

The phone number for the business is 757-304-9156.

West is currently an associate at another office in Chesapeake, but once they find a replacement for her there, the hours for West Wellness Company will likely become 8 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.


Jennifer Stamm, of The Knotted Thistle LLC, shared her reaction to winning the $17,000 second prize: “I went in(to the program) not expecting anything, so just expecting to learn from the process, so yeah… blown away, excited.”

She said she knows several people that have gone through the STARTUP program before, and she saw how even if they did not win, they were still able to open their business thanks to the help and knowledge they gleaned from the program.

“So that gave me motivation to want to do it, because I knew even if I didn’t win, I would still come away from it with the knowledge,” she said.

Elaborating on the services that The Knotted Thistle provides, Stamm said she and her husband have a commercial-size laser cutter.

“We make everything from earrings to signs,” she said. “So earrings, bracelets, decor…”

She said her No. 1 employee is her husband, Sid Stamm.

“He’s the reason this started,” she said. “He got me my first hobby laser cutter in 2019.”

She noted that they are currently known as Southern Sphynx Creations, but they are rebranding to The Knotted Thistle to have a retail component to the business and a space where they can welcome community members for do-it-yourself sign-maker paint parties and the like.

Southern Sphynx Creations, based out of Courtland, is reachable at 252-676-3818.

As Stamm rebrands to The Knotted Thistle, she is still looking for a location.

“Downtown (Franklin) would be ideal,” she said, and she hopes to be opening the business’ location by November.


The STARTUP participants can continue to use FSEDI as a resource for guidance and assistance.

During the ceremony, Heck made a point to say, “And for everyone, winner or non-winner, our office and the Small Business Development Center offices remain available to you at any time.”

He said that comments from the program’s judges on the various business plans presented will be sent out to participants within the next couple weeks as the program concludes.