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Businesses step up to the ENGAGE challenge

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Photo submitted Nine entrepreneurs pitched their businesses to a panel of judges and members of the public on May 9. The inaugural business challenge was sponsored by ENGAGE, Region 10, Delta County and Delta County Economic Development.

ENGAGE and its partners (Region 10, Delta County and Delta County Economic Development) just completed its inaugural business challenge, a 10-week project to support local business growth and development. This first-of-a-kind program for Delta County is focused on creating successful local independent small businesses. Businesses applied through a competitive application process to join the first cohort. The cohort went through a 10-week program of classes, community meetings, one-on-one coaching, and other activities to refine their business plan, build professional networks and challenge themselves to take their business to the next level. As a culmination nine entrepreneurs submitted their business plans and pitched their businesses to a panel of judges and members from the public at Needle Rock Brewery on May 9 to be awarded business grants.

The ENGAGE business challenge that kicked off Feb. 26 at CB's Tavern in Delta ended with winners announced last Thursday, May 16. The top five winners received a combined total of $11,000 in business grant awards provided by sponsors Alpine Bank, Region 10, Elevate Fiber, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Startup Colorado, City of Montrose, and Delta Building Center.

First place went to Daniel Roman of Western Slope SUP in Hotchkiss, which offers guided stand up paddleboard (SUP) river tours, lessons, whitewater rafting, and river equipment rentals to locals and tourists throughout the waterways of Delta County.

Second place went to Dave Noe and JoAnn Jarreau of Colorado Detours, offering eco-based guided tours throughout Delta County and the surrounding region, focusing on geologic interrelationships with the landscape, its ecology, and the uses of land.

Third place went to Marjory Wildcraft of The Grow Network, who is developing a "ground to consumer" subsidiary to sell premium herbs, produced by the North Fork Valley's organic and biodynamic farmers, to her 150,000 online customers devoted to making their own medicine and growing their own food.

Fourth place went to Christine Palafox of Graceful Change Energy Medicine, a private practice for adult trauma survivors that offers Jin Shin TARA energy balancing treatments to help people heal and grow from the unresolved trauma that affects their bodies, minds and spirits.

Fifth place went to Sarah Sargeant of Wildflower Boots, a business that upcycles vintage cowboy boots, belts and other leather goods to make one-of-a-kind boots for conscious and fashionable consumers. The firm employs stay-at-home mothers and newly retired women from different industries to satisfy all facets of the company such as marketing, sales, inventory management, design, purchasing, manufacturing, event coordination, planning and accounting.

"The challenge was a great opportunity to connect with other local entrepreneurs and receive some really sound business mentoring," said Daniel Roman of Western Slope SUP. "I want to thank ENGAGE, the competition sponsors, and the people of Delta County for the overwhelming support my business has received throughout this process."

"It's important to me that we acknowledge all participants that finished the ENGAGE challenge: Citizen Raw (organic snacks), Internet Cameras United (surveillance), AR Collective (energy) and Dented Face (brewpub)," said Barry Pennell of ENGAGE. "These are up and coming businesses in Delta County that are working hard to earn our local support, so let's give it to them! Although we had judging criteria that was specific for the challenge, every business in the challenge is a winner for showing the courage to launch their entrepreneurial journey. It was a pleasure working with each and every one of them."

ENGAGE and West Central Small Business Development Center (housed at Region 10) will continue working with all challenge participants to provide mentoring and aid in their development.

"This inaugural event would not have happened without the wonderful support of our community and partners, and the hard work all the businesses put in. We look forward to future business challenges and bootcamps to continue to grow the entrepreneurial spirit of our region," said Shawn Gardner, ENGAGE director.

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