Fifteen new and developing businesses entered this year’s Enterprise Challenge.
Contestants worked on early drafts of their business plan and took classes on various aspects of starting and developing a business. Eleven of those contestants participated in a trade show to showcase their concept to community and business leaders.
Now the contest is down to seven finalists. They attended Entrepreneur University, a one-day workshop in Seattle organized by the Northwest Entrepreneur Network, and worked on their final business plans.
Most of the finalists are running businesses that are in the developing stages, said David McFadden, president of New Vision, the organizers of the Enterprise Challenge.
While there are strong contenders, it’s still a wide- open contest, he said.
“There are two or three (contestants who) have done well, but they’re not so far ahead to say (to the other contestants), ‘You guys might as well not bother,’” he said.
The finalists will make a final presentation to judges Thursday. On Friday, the winners will be announced with the top three splitting $17,500 in prize money.
Owner: Mike Bastinelli, 52, and Kim Bastinelli, 52
In 2009, co-owner Mike Bastinelli stepped away from his longtime profession in radio to manage Russillo’s Pizza and Gelato in downtown Yakima. After Bastinelli left the restaurant earlier this year, he turned to a longtime hobby — creating pasta sauces from scratch. He soon realized he could build a business on that hobby. He has been renting commercial kitchen space and selling sauces by word-of-mouth.
Bastinelli returned to talk radio station KIT-AM to host a new daily radio show, but said the business is still a top priority. He would like to eventually start selling the product in stores.
“After running a restaurant and working six to seven days a week, working a regular job is kind of like a part-time job,” he joked.
He was encouraged to enter the Enterprise Challenge by a past contestant.
“(The contest) really helped me refine my plan and really set some benchmarks that I can work toward,” he said.
The Drawing Board Public House
Owner: Christine Roberts, 62
Christine Roberts wanted to replicate the public house concept she’s seen in big cities. Roberts’ son, Chad Roberts, who will help her run the business, is currently a brewer at Snipes Mountain Brewery in Sunnyside.
The public house, which Christine Roberts aims to open in downtown Yakima by May, will offer a variety of local wines and beers, as well as small plates that feature cured meats and other local foods.
But the public house is more than a place to get food and drink, she said.
“It’s kind of a gathering place where people can interact with the people who run it,” she said.
The contest, she said, enabled her to “get some experience and gain access to knowledgeable people,” she said.
With all the classes, feedback and other activities, the $125 contest fee was a good deal.
“We got way more than we paid for,” she said.
Jolie Salon & Spa
Owners: Thia Spearing, 59, and Joseph Briscoe, 23
Thia Spearing met Joseph Briscoe while doing instructor training at Sakie International, a Yakima cosmetology school. The two found they shared a lot of the same values about their profession, which led them to open the salon in January of this year.
One of the key features of the salon is a hair-coloring system, which Spearing has designed based on decades of experience. Spearing hopes to offer that system, which determines a person’s most ideal hair color based on his or her skin tone, to salons across the country.
“The salon works as a (research and development venue) where we’re continuously vetting the system and confirming and reconfirming it works and that it works really well,” she said.
The owners found their vision was much more clear as they worked on their business plan.
“It’s been wonderfully exciting putting our plans on paper and projecting out what can potentially happen over the next three years,” Spearing said.
On the Rocks Yakima
Owner: Mishani Jack, 22
Mishani Jack has been a bartender for more than a year and found that she loved it.
“You get to be creative,” she said.
Jack noticed customers visiting the bars she worked at seeking a bartender for a wedding or other event. That prompted her to start the mobile bartending service in May of this year. She’s done a few weddings so far and her advertising has mostly been word-of-mouth.
The decision to enter the Enterprise Challenge was an easy one.
“I love business,” Jack said. “I went to school for it. I wanted to learn more about it.”
The highlight has been meeting with others in the business community.
“I get a lot of feedback, it’s great,” she said. “It’s makes me more confident in my plan.”
Painted Rocks Brewery
Owners: Ken Toney, 57, Kevin Phillips, 57, and Deb Woods, 51
This trio is looking to open a brewpub in West Valley.
Ken Toney is a longtime homebrewer who has extensive experience in marketing and advertising. Kevin Phillips has a restaurant background while Deb Woods will keep the books. The owners look to open by May.
For Toney, it’s about bringing back the concept of a brewpub to Yakima.
“It broke my heart when Grant’s (Brewery Pub) folded,” Toney said, referring to the once-popular brewpub. “Bert Grant was such an amazing guy.”
Along with making the beer in-house, it will also introduce several food concepts including hot rock cookery, where people will cook steak on a square piece of lava that has been heated to 700 degrees. The business will also incorporate spent grain, a by-product of the brewing process, into pizzas and other food items.
Phillips said the contest has given them an opportunity to improve on their business plan.
And while having a chance at the price money is nice, Toney noted another perk: “The credibility that (the contest) provides and being a finalist justifies every moment we put into the business,” he said.
Owner: Tyrone Rodriguez, 41
Tyrone Rodriguez has spent many years working as a dentist for Children’s Village and other dental practices in Yakima and Moses Lake.
That experience has prepared him to his own practice, which will focus on pediatric dentistry, Rodriguez said. He’s also looking to reach out to Latinos as well as those who need special dental care.
“I love working with my patients, that’s the big motivator,” he said. “It’s very rewarding if you can pay your bill and people can feel proud to work there and you’re providing a great service that makes the community healthier.”
He’s looking to open the practice by next year.
Like many others, the competition was a way to sharpen up the plan.
“It’s brought (the questions) to light and help us think of how to answer them,” he said.
Owner: Nick Marquez, 40
Nick Marquez has worked in a number of different industries including real estate and customer service. Marquez said these diverse experiences provided skills that he has used in the development of this business, a mobile coupon site with a planned launch in May.
The site would work with local businesses to produce coupons that shoppers could access via mobile devices. “I know people are paying $45 to $130 for their smartphones,” he said. “Why not use it as a tool to (save) money?”
The feedback from judges in this contest has been helpful, he said.
“There’s no better way than to have people looking (at the business) from the outside to make sure you have all your bases covered,” he said.