Invest 606 announces finalists

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Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 12:30 PM EDT
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(WYMT) - Invest 606 announced its group of finalists for this year’s Business Accelerator and Pitch Contest, who all now have a chance to win a variety of prizes.

The organizations represent nine counties in the 606 area code, employ more than 30 people, and bring in more than $700,000 in revenue every year.

Each of the 13 businesses has the chance to win up to $30,000.

First place gets $15,000, second place gets $8,000, and third place gets $4,000.

One of the finalists, Backroads of Appalachia, plans to use the funds to create a new job.

“We’re going to buy photography equipment and also stuff for our YouTube channel,” Director Erik Hubbard said. “To employ someone and transition them to be able to take live action photography on top of one of our mountains throughout a weekend when we have events and just random beautiful days out.”

Those with Appalachian Horse Project, a finalist from Knott County, want to either invest in a new tour vehicle or build a new small building.

“In which we would be able to welcome the guests, sell the tickets to the tours, and also have Kentucky Proud products offered for sell,” Executive Director Ginny Grulke said.

Last but not least, Hazard Coffee Company, who simply wants to expand its business.

“Maybe open up a canning operation or maybe expand just a little bit of seating that we can do. Right now, I think our plan is to be able to potentially start canning some of our cold brew and iced coffee,” Owner Stephen Prosser said. “That way we can distribute it to more of the community, people can buy it online, they can buy it in store.”

Prosser said it was an unexpected call.

“Being so young, I think we’re one of the younger companies in the competition,” he said. “It just makes us feel like we’re doing what we need to do. We couldn’t have done it without the city’s support.”

Grulke said they were surprised when given the opportunity.

“It was advertised as entrepreneurial businesses and we’re kind of a half and half non-profit, business entity,” she said. “So, the fact that they included us made us feel really great.”

Many finalists said they were happy to see several counties in Eastern Kentucky being represented, as it shows growth is coming to the region.

Compared to last year, when the finalists came from all over the Commonwealth.

“We have to financially make it as well but our sole purpose is to help everybody else,” Hubbard said. “So, the people I’m competing with in the future, I’ll be assisting and helping them grow as well.”

Prosser said his business is grateful for the opportunity.

“Coming to a small Eastern Kentucky town, I don’t think it was something we always wanted to do because we never thought we would be able to do,” he said. “Life throws you the opportunity.”

Hubbard said he is excited for some friendly competition amongst local businesses.

“I’m in it to win it. That’s just how we go in life, that’s just our mentality, that’s Backroad’s attack and strategy plan,” he said. “I wish everybody the best of luck but I plan on working very hard to walk away with the grand prize.”

However, Grulke said she is just happy to be a part of it.

“No matter who gets those top three prizes, it’s going to be good for the region anyway,” she said. “I mean, even if we don’t, just making the finalists gives you a whole range of benefits.”

Here is a full list of the finalists and some of their statements regarding the opportunity:

Ginny Grulke with Appalachian Horse Project in Knott County.

Carolyn Davis with Appalachian Quilt & Craft in Perry County.

“I am thrilled that Appalachian Quilt & Craft is included in the Invest 606 group of finalists. We provide top quality quilting products, supplies and workshops. We connect our community of makers by inspiring creativity, providing instruction and sharing the work of our talented local artists,” Davis said. “Invest 606 provides each business with support for training and guidance to help each of us grow and improve according to our unique needs. I am grateful for this opportunity.”

Erik Hubbard with Backroads of Appalachia in Harlan County

Trevor and Samantha Stovall with Faith, Trust, & A Little Dust Bakery in Floyd County

“We are so excited to have been selected as finalists for Invest 606. This program is a huge asset to small businesses and the Eastern Kentucky economy,” they said. “At FTD Bakery, we are proud to bring high quality desserts to our little party of the world. We are excited to learn and grow as we participate in this competition.”

Kelli Thompson with Graze in Pike County

“I was so honored and excited that Graze was selected to participate in Invest 606! We love the “606″ at Graze and are dedicated to helping many small businesses that collaborate with us to rise as we learn from Invest 606! The information and training that is available is invaluable to a small business owner,” Thompson said. “The 606 has some of the most generous and hardworking people on the planet. We are just thankful that Invest 606 believed enough in us to allow us the opportunity to help people worldwide see the beauty of the people and goods in our region.”

Stephen Prosser with Hazard Coffee Company in Perry County

Tasha Sams with HOME Appalachia in Pike County

“HOME Appalachia selected to be part of Invest 606 is a testament to the region’s devotion to diversity. When you limit who can participate, you in turn limit how pressing problems are solved. Our voices are Appalachian voices and we’re excited to be at the table,” Sams said. “We know that what we bring is needed, and ensures that the rural Renaissance in Eastern Kentucky embodies y’all means all. It is truly an honor to be part of this journey.”

Jesse and Lois White with Independent Metal Works LLC in Floyd County

“We are humbled to be part of such a talented cohort of business owners. We are looking forward to learning and growing with them,” they said. “This opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time for us. We are excited to see where it leads!”

Joshua and Shannon Dahler with Mountain House Mushrooms in Estill County

“We feel very privileged to be accepted as finalist in the Invest 606 program. It was very much an honor to be a part of a group that has so much talent and potential to offer to our local communities,” they said. “Many thanks to Geoff Marietta, Invest 606, and all those who work so hard to make programs like this available to aspiring entrepreneurs of eastern Kentucky.”

Vickie and Sarah Crabtree with Positive Attraction Soaps in Lee County

“Positive Attraction Soaps Co. is very excited to participate in this locally based competition. Investing in our Appalachia is the heart of Invest 606 and an endeavor we also share,” they said. “Everyone participating has such a wonderful business and the connections/support we make with each other will last a lifetime. I think it’s safe to say we want everyone to win, because it will also be a win for Eastern Kentucky!”

Mandi Fugate Sheffel with Read Spotted Newt in Perry County

“It’s an honor to be selected as a finalist for the Invest 606 pitch contest. This program is invaluable to small businesses in our region,” Sheffel said. “I would like to thank all the founding partners who believe in the entrepreneurs of Appalachia and this investment. The 2022 cohort is a great group and I wish the best of luck to everyone involved.”

Elizabeth Schroer with Reimagines in Pulaski County

“I am so excited to be an Invest 606 finalist! It is a wonderful opportunity to connect with other entrepreneurs in eastern Kentucky,” Schroer said. “It is such an honor to be a part of this community and to represent Pulaski County.”

Chelsey Mayse with Tipper Valley Farm in Rowan County

You can read more about these businesses here.

Officials with Invest 606 said a winner will be announced April 23, 2022.

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