Lake County News,California – Nonprofit to award $50,000 at annual small business competition

Top row, left to right, Hands Up Lake County Small Business “Mini” Competition finalists Jennifer Gayda, Anahi Silva, Catherine Reese, Valeri Stallings and Ashley Garrigus; bottom row, Brianna Thomas, alternate.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — The Hands Up Lake County Small Business “Mini” Competition announced it has narrowed selected its finalists in this year’s event.

The event’s board also offered congratulations to the competitors in this year’s event, noting that each of the 17 participants deserve notice and appreciation.

All are working to make a living in, and be a part of, the local small business economy that is so vital to Lake County.

Five winners selected by a team of judges will now advance to the final competition on Dec. 12: BottleRock Candle Studio, Jennifer Marie Gayda, Cobb; Party Ideas, Anahi Maria Silva, Clearlake; Reese Ranch Retreat, Catherine Ann Reese, Witter Springs; Send Rover on Over, Valeri Ann Stallings, Lakeport; and Wild Hope Bakery, Ashley Ruth Garrigus, Middletown.

Brianna Elisabeth Thomas was selected as the alternate. Thomas’ business, Red Feather Leather, is in Lakeport. She will prepare alongside the five finalists and step in should there be a cancellation.

In its second year, the small business competition drew 50 applicants; 20 were selected to go to phase two, a one-day workshop and training on business planning and digital marketing.

Nineteen attended the training and 17 participated in the next phase, a mini competition which took place on a recent rainy Saturday at the Konocti Vista Casino, Resort & Marina event center in Lakeport.

Judges for the mini competition had a very tough decision — to select the five businesses (and one alternate) who would advance to the final competition and the chance to win one of five cash awards totaling $50,000.

Dennis Darling, owner of Foods Etc. was judging the event for the second time. He believes in the mission of and need for the small business competition.

“Without the businesses and services available locally, buyers go elsewhere to nearby counties for their shopping,” Darling said. “By giving our local entrepreneurs a boost to help with their inventory, equipment, distribution, and other expenses while also investing in their training and development, we can help solve the problem of people taking their business outside the County. This benefits all of us.”

An early supporter of the small business competition, Darling has contributed his time and made a generous donation to the effort. He will be one of several donors who will present the cash awards at the final competition.

The presenters were required to hit key points — a business plan with financial projections, a compelling story about their start in business, a marketing plan and understanding of market ups and downs, among other factors.

Tasked with judging the outcomes Bobby Dutcher, president of the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, said he wished they could award every presenter with the $20,000 1st prize.

“I appreciated being asked to judge the competition, and enjoyed the experience, though I have to say I wasn’t expecting the decision to be so challenging,” he said. “The organizers did a very good job preparing the competitors.”

Judge Sabrina Andrus, owner of three small businesses in Kelseyville — A + H General Store, maker and paper & poppy, said, “What I saw during the competition was a remarkable expression of determination, enthusiasm and dedication — many of the attributes needed to make it in a tough business environment. The diversity of ideas was impressive, our task was incredibly daunting.”

Nic and Mayra Lam, owners of Lam Printing in Clearlake and last year’s first place winners, will be on hand at the Dec. 12 final competition.

“We’ll be there to support small businesses and the dream team who put this all together,” they said.

The Lams also said they wanted to encourage small businesses to apply next year because in the end, all businesses benefit from the opportunity to hone their business plans, polish their ideas and presentation skills, and expand their business networks.

“The publicity on social, online and print media all participating businesses receive is icing on the cake,” they said.

Monica Rosenthal of “R” Vineyards, one of last year’s judges and a recent addition to the 1Team 1Dream Board said, “Getting into the final competition and winning one of the cash prizes is, of course, important. But more than that, the project is helping to build a network of entrepreneurs and startup businesses who now better understand how to develop or enhance their business models for long term sustainability. Too often, we see small businesses close their doors, sometimes in their first year. The idea is to build resiliency. We want to support small businesses for the benefit of the entire County.”

Hands Up Lake County is the signature project of the 1Team 1Dream nonprofit formed to support small businesses who are dedicated to making a home and raising their families in Lake County.

“We believe small businesses are essential to our rural economy and that with a hand up, ideas can become realities,” said founder and major sponsor, Maryann Schmid, who along with her husband, Peter, owns The Lodge at Blue Lakes. “We raised $50,000 for cash prizes this year, up from $28,400 in our first year. For our third annual competition, we’re setting a much higher fundraising goal so we can increase our support for small businesses.”

“The public is invited to support the small businesses and alternate selected for the final competition by voting for the Fan Favorite,” said 1Team 1Dream Board Chair Olga Steele.

From Nov. 17 to Dec. 11 voting will take place on the 1Team 1Dream Facebook page. The winner (and award) will be announced at the final competition.

The Dec. 12 event will be livestreamed, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., also on Facebook.

To sponsor the event or for more information contact Olga Steele at 916-849-8170 and visit