Future Candy Company, Three Other Startups Awarded Cash as ‘Business Builders’ Winners

First Financial Bank and Duke Energy fund grants for businesses

A total of six bold, brave entrepreneurs vied for funding to support their business plans at the recent Business Builders Pitch Competition. Henry County Creates presented the fourth annual event at the Hoosier Gym following a series of workshops about small business ownership. The pitch competition infused $10,000 into the ideas of area small businesses, thanks to a grant from the First Financial Foundation.

Entrepreneur Valerie Lamb’s CJ’s Candies took first place with a cash prize of $5,000. Lamb hopes to secure a venue in downtown New Castle which will serve chocolates, treats and ice cream.

“I am excited about the energy downtown,” said Valerie Lamb, owner of CJ’s Candies. “We want CJ’s Candies to be a place where people come to make sweet memories. We’re grateful for this award, which will help us fund our equipment and point-of-sale system software.”

Sharon Herbert, Amanda Shaeffer and Emily Herbert grabbed the second-place award of $2,500. The trio is looking to mobilize their existing business, Midwestern Girls Boutique. The funding will go toward the purchase of trailer making it easier for them to sell their merchandise to customers.

The Art Association of Henry County received third-place recognition and $1,500. The nonprofit will open de l’art which will serve as pop-up shop for entrepreneurs. The Art Association plans to use the space to combine food and art. They will use the award to cover costs associated with buying kitchen equipment.

Two Boys and a Horse Trailer won the $500 budding entrepreneurship prize sponsored by Duke Energy. Wyatt Brewster, the company’s 17-year old owner, will use the award to buy moving straps, dollies and moving blankets.

CJ’s Candies also captured the People’s Choice Award of $1,000. Lamb brought samples of her hand-crafted chocolate to share with attendees.

Henry County Creates, New Castle Main Street, Ivy Tech Community College, the New Castle Henry County Economic Development Corporation, and the East Central Indiana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) are partners in the annual Business Builders program. In addition to the launch event, the program includes a six-week curriculum on how to recognize an “a-ha” moment, create a business plan, define a target market, pinpoint customer demographics, and more.

“The value of Business Builders is the networking and sharing of ideas among entrepreneurs and small business owners,” said New Castle Henry County Economic Development Corporation President Corey Murphy. “This initiative also demonstrates that Henry County is a community that supports and cultivates small business growth.”

This year’s panel of judges was comprised of Corey Murphy, President of New Castle Henry County Economic Development Corporation; Ivy Tech Community College Site Director Jeannie Hamblin-Fox; and Duke Hamm, FocalPoint Business Coach and New Castle Main Street Board President.

New Castle Main Street Executive Director Carrie Barrett says the 2023 Business Builders participants’ sound business ideas, paired with their loyal attendance at a series of Tuesday night preparatory classes at Ivy Tech, prepared them to pitch before the live audience in Hoosier Gym. Each presenter came equipped with a business plan and the knowledge of how to succeed.

“We’re thankful to Karen Lloyd, Regional Director for the East Central Indiana SBDC, for her time and expertise in presenting these sessions that educated our entrepreneurs with the knowledge they needed to present their ideas live before our judges,” Barrett said. “She and her team helped prepare them to be successful in launching/expanding and operating their businesses in Henry County. We’re excited about who they are and what they plan to do in our county and in downtown New Castle.”

In addition to the four winning businesses, several entrepreneurs also participated in the Business Builders workshop series. Barrett already had investors reach out about a business involved in the series and sees potential growth in each of these businesses.

For more information about Henry County Creates and Business Builders, contact New Castle Main Street at carrie@newcastledowntown.com