LAKEPORT— Melinda Price of Peace and Plenty Farms took home the $25,000 top prize in the established business category at the small business competition “Hands Up Lake County 2022” Saturday. In the startup business category, Baylee Grove of Rock N Rolled Ice Cream took the top honors winning $10,000. Both will invest their winnings to grow their businesses.
Hands Up Lake County is a small business competition produced by 1Team 1Dream, a local non-profit with a goal to improve the local economy – several businesses at a time – and founded on the premise that small businesses are the backbone of rural economies.
Other winners in the established business category took home cash prizes: Angela Hughes of Angela’s Any Time Rides won $20,000; Nicole Gentry of Grilligan’s Island won $15,000 and the Fan Favorite prize of $1,000; Ben Guenther of Upper Lake Grocery won $10,000 and Curtis Cook of Land Escape took home $5,000.
In the startup business category, Karen Kress of The Bee’s Knees took home $5,000 and Robin Marsolek of Upper Lake took home $3,000.
The Founders Award of $2,000 was awarded to Danae William’s of Danae’s Desserts. Charles Seabrook of Seabrook Charters and Brandon Skinner of Skinner Electrics each took home $500.
Monica Rosenthal, Board member of the non-profit and emcee of the event said, “In the inaugural year of the competition, Founders Maryann Schmid and Olga Martin Steele raised and awarded $28,000 to six small businesses; in 2021, the pair raised and awarded $50,000 to six businesses; and in 2022 they raised $100,000 and awarded 11 small businesses.
“In 2023, we’ve set a goal for ourselves of $150,000,” said Founder Maryann Schmid. Steele added, “each year we find ourselves wanting to do more to support small business who are all in for Lake County, choosing to work and raise their families here.”
“We couldn’t do any of this without the support of our sponsors,” Schmid said.
Absent this year was Alan Flora, Clearlake City Manager, who from the beginning has been a top supporter of the business competition. In a video-taped message he praised the results of the 3-year effort, reminding the crowd that in the first year a Clearlake business, Lam Printing, won first prize. “They started in their garage, even sold their car and despite a pandemic that hit three months after they opened their storefront business, are thriving today. In their second year they doubled their business and are going strong still,” he said. “That’s a true success story.”
Major donors presented the prizes on stage at the Soper Reese Theatre including Foods Etc.; Reynolds Systems Incorporated; Tribal Health Consortium; Peter and Maryann Schmid, Rita & Roxana; the Savings Bank of Mendocino County, the Cities of Clearlake and Lakeport, and the County of Lake. An additional 27 businesses, individuals and organizations supported the competition with donations ranging from $500 to $5,000.
$10,000 1st Place Winner in the Startup Business Category, Baylee Grove and her sponsors, Rita Schmid and Roxana Melgarejo, on stage at the Soper Reese Theater during Saturday’s competition.
Many past winners were on hand to help produce the event that drew a crowd of about 150. Catherine Reese, last year’s first place winner, had this to say, “Yesterday I had the pleasure of helping 1Team 1Dream present $100,000 to multiple businesses. I got to hear people share their heart and souls.” She added this bit of advice, “Truly if you are willing to put in the work, pivot when necessary and always be open to learning, you can and will go far.”
On hand to judge the competition were California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Thornhill Vineyards award winning winemaker Amy Thorn, and Vice President of the Savings Bank of Mendocino County, Shawn Nunnemaker.
Steele said that judging between excellent businesses is challenging and probably the most difficult job of all. “I love that unanimously, the judges expressed high enthusiasm and support for the project. That kind of feedback keeps us going.”