Craft food and beverage competition boosts Thumb businesses

This fall, the I-69 Thumb Region economic partnership has been supporting area craft food and beverage businesses with the Catapult Your Craft business competition.

The partnership consists of seven counties; Genesee, St. Clair, Lapeer, Shiawassee, Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac. In each county, first and second place prizes of $2,000 and $1,000 were awarded in November to entrepreneurs and small business owners with the express purpose of starting new craft food and drink businesses, or helping existing ones grow.

In Huron County, the top winner, Bird Creek Tap Room, presented a need for funding for additional fermenters to expand their brewing business and capacity, according to the Huron County EDC.I n their first year of production, the new brewery was already unable to meet demand, limiting its revenue, which the added equipment would boost.

"We very much look forward to the next step in the competition in January," say the owners, the Steigerwald family. "The Tap Room has been very lucky to have gained the community support necessary to get our business off to a great start and can't wait for what is to come in 2017. We continue to strive to be a world class agri-tourism destination and hope we can, with the help of our dedicated staff and amazing customers, meet and exceed the expectations we have for our business in the future."

Qualifications for the competition were to be either an individual starting a new business in the next three months, or existing small businesses with 20 or fewer employees and revenue under $400,000, with plans to grow locally or expand into bigger markets. They were judged on how the company addresses an important need, that their business concept and revenue model were clear and met customers' needs, that a team can implement the idea, and that financial, marketing and sales approaches were reasonable and appropriate. Finally, the entrants presented their ideas or plans in a professional and compelling manner to judges from local EDCs, financial institutions and businesses.

The other first place winners were Harsen's Island Brewery in St. Clair County, Olympus Fare from Genesee County, The Mulefoot Gastropub in Lapeer, Elk Street Brewery in Sanilac, Town to Town Gourmet Pastries in Shiawassee, and Gary's Gourmet in Tuscola County.

The second place winners were Ge'maux Macarons in Genesee, Culinary Delights in Huron, Simply Gourmand in Lapeer, 3 North Vines Vineyard and Winery in Sanilac, Perx and Pastries in Shiawassee, Hoppily Ever After Farms in St. Clair, and Fostoria Bread Company in Tuscola.

All the first place winners from each county will go on to a regional finale competing against each other for additional grant funding, which will take place in the end of January, time and place yet to be determined. The prizes there will be $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000 for the top three winners. All the funding was provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, along with additional sponsors, with the ultimate goal to create and expand growth opportunities in the Thumb region.

Writer: Kim Eggleston
Source: I-69 Thumb Region/Huron County EDC
 
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