STARTUP hands out 6th round of awards

Published 8:15 am Friday, May 24, 2024

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The sixth round of the STARTUP Franklin Southampton program featured nine participants and was highlighted by financial awards for an audio/video production company and a meat processing operation.

Jett Production Company, owned by L. Terrel Majette, won the first-place prize of $20,000.

Serenity Acres Homestead, owned by Veronica Prevost and Christine Sullivan, won the second-place prize of $15,000.

The announcement of these award-winners was the focal point of the 2024 STARTUP Awards Night & Expo held on Thursday, May 16, at The Hubs Vine.

The event was emceed by Marshall Rabil, who in addition to being a co-owner of the Hubbard Peanut Company is a member of the Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. board and the STARTUP sub-committee.

“Since 2017, Franklin Southampton Economic Development has hosted a STARTUP business program,” Rabil said near the beginning of the event. “It has dramatically improved our community and the overall vibe of downtown Franklin. The businesses that graduated from this program have been a breath of fresh air because this program is responsible for taking vacant buildings and putting new life into them by turning dreams into livelihoods and destinations that we all frequent.”

Moments later, FSEDI President and CEO Karl T. Heck said, “STARTUP is a business development program, but it’s also more than that. It’s an opportunity for people in our community to have an opportunity to live out their business dream and share it with their neighbors.”

FSEDI has described STARTUP as a business plan competition that serves to provide financial assistance and business training within the city of Franklin and Southampton County limits.

Participants in the competition must do the following:

  • submit an online application;
  • attend six business courses provided by various business instructors;
  • submit a completed business plan; and
  • pitch the business to a panel of community leaders. 

Heck noted that all 12 previous STARTUP prize winners have opened for business and remain open. Additionally, six previous participants that did not win prizes have also opened, benefitting from the knowledge gained through the program.

During an expanded STARTUP Awards Night event, each of the nine participants in the sixth round of STARTUP were given the opportunity to come forward and give a brief description of the business they are developing.

During his opportunity, Majette said, “I am the owner and CEO of Jett Production Company. We are an audio and video production company who caters to individuals and businesses, aspiring content creators and everybody the same.

“Whatever it is, we’ll come out to you, and our motto is, ‘We bring your vision to life,’” he said. “So we want to come in and be able to offer everyone affordable, professional video services.”

He offered insight into what inspired him to create this business after returning home from Atlanta where he worked as a singer, songwriter and actor.

“Being someone who’s from Franklin and never really having the opportunity to be able to showcase my talents in this area, I’m so glad to be able to come back to this area and be able to pour this out to any young aspiring entertainment professionals,” he said. “So thank you so much for this opportunity, and thank you to all these lovely contestants that I’ve had the opportunity to go against in this program.” 

After being announced as the $20,000 first-place STARTUP winner, Majette explained what it meant to him.

“It meant everything,” he said. “It’s such a full-circle moment for me right now, being a kid who grew up in Franklin and just always wanted to make my footprint in this area, and this opportunity has given me just that. So I’m really looking forward to being able to just give back to the place that made me who I am. So I’m just looking forward to getting to work now.”

He shared a few more insights into the ambitious plans has for his business.

“The one thing that I’m really looking to do in the end is I want to open up a school,” he said. “I want this to one day become a school where I can give certifications to kids in the area who may be looking for a career in entertainment and things of that nature. So I’m really looking forward to that.

“I’m looking forward to opening up my brick-and-mortar, because I’m going to have a state-of-the-art podcast studio that’s going to be inside the studio for people to come and start their own podcast,” he added. “And I’m looking to open up my own TV network right here in Franklin as well.”

He said he has a possible brick-and-mortar location.

“Still working out some of the details, but now that I know I won this, I’m probably going to be on the phone as soon as I get out of here right now,” he said.

Prevost spoke on behalf of Serenity Acres Homestead when the turn came during the event for sharing details about what it could offer to the community.

“We are a USDA abattoir, which means we bring processing back to Southampton County — no more traveling out of state to get your cow, deer or pig processed,” she said. “So we look forward to working with all of you.”

After being announced as the $15,000 second-place STARTUP winner, both Prevost and Sullivan echoed Majette’s comments by noting that it meant everything to them.

“We can get our business up off the ground and open in Sedley and help our community, and we’ve been working on this for two years, so this means everything to us,” Prevost said.

Sullivan added, “One of the things that we’ve really focused on is not only (what) do we want to do for the community, but we want to give back to the community as well. By keeping people’s money here in Southampton County, it keeps our economy booming, and this is our home. We love it here. We don’t see ourselves going anywhere.”

Sullivan said, “In addition to giving back to the community, because it is such a time constraint for the business that we are operating, we can only hold people’s meat for so long, so after 30 days, if they don’t (retrieve it), it’s going straight to the Foodbank, so that way it can help the needy.”

The 2024 STARTUP Awards Night & Expo also featured words of encouragement for prospective business owners from previous STARTUP winners and participants, like Paula Dullas, of FARM FED Food Truck; Debbie Darden, of Gatherings in SoCo; Tiffany Rutledge, of The Graceful Baker LLC; and Jordan West, of West Wellness Co.

Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center Senior Business Analyst Bill Holloran also offered some words of inspiration during the event.

The other seven participants in the sixth round of STARTUP included All Beauty Med Spa, from Ashley Maddrey-Boyd; Big Mama’s Fish Market LLC, from April Lankford; Carla’s Southern Cuisine, from Carla Francis; Deploy Computer Services, from Lakita Hicks; Old Dominion Welding LLC, from Andre Young; TellaTummies Doula Services LLC, from Shan’Tella Williams; and White Birch & Bee, from Tami H. Cook.