Entrepreneurs gather from around Southern Virginia to accelerate their businesses

A group of 13 businesses represented by 16 entrepreneurs took the stage at the first annual RISE Business Pitch Competition. Each competitor presented their business startup or business expansion concept in front of a panel of judges, fellow entrepreneurs, and audience members. Competitors were pitching for a chance to win a portion of a total of over $16,000 in cash grants. 

The event was held at a Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston, Virginia, and was attended by local entrepreneurs, community members, and friends and family of the competitors.

Winners will be announced at a virtual gathering which will be held on April 4th starting at 6 pm EST.  Everyone is encouraged to attend and pre-registration is required. 

Sara Wall business pitch

The competition featured a fast-paced format, with each team having five minutes to pitch their business and another five minutes for Q&A with the judges. The event began at 3:30 PM with doors opening, followed by check-in and networking, headshots, group photos, and light refreshments. The welcome remarks were given at 4:30 PM, followed by the transition to pitches. The competition was split into three sessions, with breaks in between, and concluded at 7:45 PM.

The prize funds include $15,000 that will be divided among the businesses in the Startup or Grow category. The Startup category will be awarded to businesses that are very early in their process of becoming established and launching. Three entrepreneurs pitched in this category, including Sam Bowels and Craig Titus of Farmville, Va. (B&C Brewing Co.), Vonita Brim of Patrick County (The Appalachian Glamping Experience), and Eboni Freeman of Farmville, Va. (Premier Endeavors).  

The Grow category will be awarded to existing businesses that demonstrated a concept to scale their business. Twelve businesses pitched in this category. Each of these companies is already established with customer relationships, suppliers, and marketing strategies. The reason these businesses are competing for prize funds is that the owners have identified a need to access capital in order to grow their businesses.

Attend the Awards Celebration

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

6pm-7pm on Zoom

Competition Judges

RISE Collaborative wants to recognize the contribution of the volunteer judges, which included: Julie Brown (Vice President of Advanced Learning at IALR and Co-Owner of 2 Witches Winery and Brewing Company), Bridget Flannagan (Co-Owner of Great Escape Salon), Hope Harris-Gayles (Director of Marketing at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and Marketing Consultant at Longwood SBDC), Vandy Jones (Director of the Petersburg Area Longwood SBDC), and David Kenealy (Director of ProductWorks@SVHEC).

Judges Panel for the 2023 RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition

Business Pitch Competitors

A total of 13 businesses pitched at the event, in the following order:

2023 Competition Awards

RISE Collaborative will distribute over $16,000 in prize funds through the inaugural RISE Business Pitch Competition. Businesses are eligible to compete in either the Startup or Grow category.

Startup Category: 

  • Multiple $1,000 awards are available.

Grow Category:

  • 1st Place: $5,000
  • 2nd Place: $4,000
  • 3rd Place: $3,000

Women-Owned Business Category:

The SOVA Female Founders Fund for Women-Owned Businesses is intended to provide additional support and encouragement to female entrepreneurs demonstrating perseverance in pursuing their vision.  The minimum award amount is $1,000. To qualify, businesses must be at least 51% owned by a woman, as self-reported. Priority will be given to qualified entrepreneurs who demonstrate grit defined as the "perseverance and passion for long-term goals" and the ability to overcome obstacles. Businesses may win this award, whether or not they also win a Startup or Grow award. 

Donate to the Female Founders Fund for Women-Owned Businesses

The Fund is currently at $2,100 as of March 29, 2023. Donations could be made by downloading and completing a sponsorship form or by emailing hello@sovarise.com. Pledges for 2023 are required to be made by Friday, March 31, 2023, at 12:00 noon.


Event Sponsors & Partners

The RISE Business Plan Competition is one of several programs organized by RISE Collaborative that provides access to capital through cash prizes, mentorship, and networking opportunities. The 2023 RISE Business Plan Competition Sponsors include Benchmark Community Bank, American National Bank & Trust, First Citizens Bank, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, Long & Foster Real Estate of South Boston, Va., Letterpress Communications, and the SOVA Innovation Hub. Information about sponsoring future RISE Collaborative events is online at sovarise.com/partners.

Carl Bassfield, owner of In-Depth Productions based in Blackstone, Va., provided photography for the event.  As a member of the first business bootcamp offered by RISE Collaborative, Bassfield has been an active participant and contributor to the RISE Collaborative since its launch in 2021. 

Rudy’s Girl Media based in Martinsville, Va. provided videography coverage. Natalie Hodge, owner of RGM and creator of the YouTube series Hometown Hustle, is an avid supporter of other entrepreneurs. Hodge and her team are gearing up for the Season 2 premier of Hometown Hustle on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at 7 pm EST.

RISE Collaborative looks forward to hosting future events to support local entrepreneurs and businesses.  To find out more about events, resources, and how to get involved, join our email list or contact us at hello@sovarise.com