July 17, 2012

B2C judges from 2011 contemplate the scoring on the entries in the first round of competition.

B2C judges from 2011 contemplate the scoring on the entries in the first round of competition.  Laurie Jones of the Small Business Development Center (center) documented all of the scoring and comments on the computer. Jones assists NJC’s small business management instructor Cyndi Vandenbark  with the coordination of the B2C program which returns again in 2012. Deadline to apply is July 31st.  (Courtesy Photo)

Deadline to apply is now July 31st.

Northeastern Junior College and the El Pomar Foundation have once again teamed up to run a Course Work Grant and Business Plan Competition in 2012. More money has been put into the program and so additional businesses are being sought to participate. The Small Business Development Center, a state-run program, is also involved in the coordination of the competition. 

To be eligible to participate, you must be a resident of Northeastern Colorado and own an existing or startup business in this local area. The participating businesses will be competing for award money through the completion and presentation of a business plan.

However, the basis for the Business 2 College (B@C) program is education. If you apply and are selected to participate, you will receive six free credits of college business training that is related to business ownership and operation. Each entrepreneur chosen will also be awarded an iPad and provided with Internet access during the duration of the program. The participants get to keep the iPad once the competition is over.

The goal of the B2C program is to strengthen business communities and develop business leaders. Following the training and after some consultation from business experts, contestants will complete and present a business plan during the final competition, judged by a panel of professionals with various areas of expertise related to owning and operating a business.

Applications for the competition can be requested from Cyndi Vandenbark at 970-521-6763 or email: B2C@njc.edu

The application is fairly simple. It doesn’t require a great deal of time to complete. Applications must be submitted by Tuesday, July 31st at 5 p.m.

During last year’s competition,  the following individuals participated in the first round of B2C: Deb Tryboski, Bully’s Pub and Grub, Logan County (Fleming);  Chris Fiegel, Boondocks, Logan County (Sterling);  Shirley Legg, Legg Creation, Phillips County (Holyoke);  Tina Owens, Perfectly Polished Day Lounge, Logan County (Sterling); James Stewart, Lock Doc, Logan County (Sterling);   Ben Blecha, Big Time, Small Town Media,  Logan County (Sterling);  Patricia Kamery, Puzzle Weights, Phillips County (Haxtun);  Heather Zwirn, Hot Java, Logan County (Sterling); Stacey Poland, Just What Grows Gardens, Morgan County (Fort Morgan); Roger Hosea, NE Colorado Total Document Management, Logan County (Sterling).

In the end, it was Stacey Poland, who was the top winner. Poland’s business plan garnered her $10,000.  Three other businesses were named runners-up and each received $5,000. Those three winners included Debra Tryboski, Ben Blecha and Tina Owens and their respective businesses.

Recognizing that consumers want fresh produce, Bret and Stacey Poland opened Just What Grows Gardens (JWGG) in June, 2011. Located between Brush and Ft. Morgan, four miles north of I-76, a large part of the business is a pick your own (PYO) fresh flower and herb component. Customers must meet with Stacey once to get oriented to the garden but after that, people can come pick their own flowers and herbs.  Offering an ample selection of flower and herb varieties, customers pay by the pail as they leave.

In its business plan, Just What Grows Gardens  (JWGG) planned to start providing a “fresh salad mix” in early spring 2012 through late fall. The salad mix would include produce such as mixed salad greens, Swiss chard, radishes, green onions, herbs, and a few other items. A passion of JWGG is drought tolerant plants. Plant plugs (seedlings) will be purchased yearly and grown until they are large enough to market to customers.  Shrubs such as the Oakleaf Sumac and White Sage were planted this year. Perennials such as Penstemons and a few varieties of Buckwheat were also planted and have grown to a nice size as they become ready for this year’s sales.

All of these drought tolerant plants are grown in the native soils, out in the open environment. The Polands’ intention is to grow and sell plants that are native to the West, able to survive the high winds, dry winters, and alkaline soils.

Recently, JWGG purchased a hoop house to help grow some of their items. Once the business has a steady supply of customers, the owners would like to add more hoop houses, a large greenhouse, an outdoor classroom, and will look into wildflower turf production.

The owners hope to increase sales to local businesses with weekly delivered flower arrangements and hope to get a few contracts with local restaurants for weekly fresh herb delivery.

On being selected for the B2C program, Stacey Poland stated “The B2C program means everything to me. It is an honor to have been selected from the many applications. I am hoping the program will help my husband and I figure out a direction for Just What Grows Gardens. I am also excited to learn about new concepts of marketing and advertising for our business.”