NORTON — Eleven aspiring business owners completed the inaugural Entrepreneur Challenge this week. During an awards ceremony Tuesday at Hotel Norton, six contestants received grants to help bring their proposals to life. Below is a list of all contestants and their business proposals. Grant recipients are listed first.
• Mark and Carol Caruso of Norton won the contest’s top prize: a $10,000 grant. The couple plans to expand its part-time firearms training and equipment business, Pathfinders Outdoor Adventures, into a full-fledged and full-time outdoor recreation outfitter.
• Terri Funk of St. Paul won a $5,000 grant to expand Clinch River Adventures, a tube, kayak and canoe rental business in St. Paul.
• Jeffrey and Melissa Hunt of Dungannon received a $5,000 grant to expand their business, Hunts Garage, into a full-service garage and welding shop, offering a full range of repair work and state stickers.
• Sandra Argo of Bluefield won a $1,500 grant to expand her business, LA International Education, an exchange program between Southwest Virginia and Brazil.
• Diana Fuller of Honaker received a $1,500 grant to expand her business Honey Bea’s Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor. The business held its grand opening Oct. 4.
• Joe Bates of Lee County received a $1,500 grant to expand his business, Bates Family Farm. The farm provides fresh eggs, dairy, produce and goat lotions and soaps. His soaps and lotions are sold at multiple retail locations across the region, and Bates participates in several area farmers markets.
Other contestants included:
• Bill Dotson of Wise County, owner of Pawpaw’s Bible Stories and Childhood Tales. Dotson’s business involves recording and selling stories via CDs and iTunes. He performs at local festivals and is developing a business plan to invest in professional recording and production.
• Jack Flanary of Norton is the owner of North 40 Airsoft, which centers around a 10-acre field where teams equipped with tactical gear and guns that shoot soft bullets can maneuver through various combat scenarios every other week. Game scenarios include search and rescue missions, capture the flag, search and destroy, VIP escort, historical military battles and scenarios based on popular video games.
• Cloyd Gaffney, a University of Virginia’s College at Wise student, hopes to launch a fresh seafood market in the region. He started C&C Seafood with his father in April 2009 in South Carolina.
• James Long, a UVa-Wise student and football player, is developing the Vault Sleeve, an athletic sleeve that will enhance ball control while protecting football players.
• Jeffrey Perry of Wise County is the owner of Perry’s Energy Audit, which will help homeowners use technology to increase efficiency and reduce costs.