Months of planning, research and hard work came down to this moment. Nine local entrepreneurs – all of them with promising businesses – sat nervously after pitching their business plans before a panel of experts. Now, all they could do was wait.
A lot rides on the judges’ decisions made during the May 4 inaugural Buckner entrepreneurship incubator pitch event in Peñitas, Texas.
“Many of the entrepreneurs are the sole providers for their families, therefore a successful business means their families will become more secure,” explained Charlotte Navarro, manager of economic strengthening for Buckner International. “This aligns with the mission of Buckner Family Hope Centers, which is to strengthen families.”
After much deliberation, the judges bestowed first place on Anjali and Adan Santiago, owners of Adan’s Automotive. The couple will receive up to $1,000 to go towards a business asset of their choice needed to take their small business to the next level.
Also receiving prizes were Osvaldo Rodriguez, owner of Valdo’s Auto, whose second-place prize is a business asset up to $1,000, and Maria Luisa Morales, owner of Taqueria MC, who earned third place and a business asset worth up to $500.
While pitching their business plans, each entrepreneur listed the assets needed to further advance the development of their businesses. Some of the items mentioned included a tow trailer for Adan’s Automotive, a second ice cream truck for Summer Snacks and an oven for Nena’s Empanadas.
The award will continue the momentum the Santiagos have built in their company. Thanks to lessons learned during classes at the local Buckner Family Hope Center, Adan’s Automotive has becoming a growing, self-sustaining effort.
“We are so proud of everyone who took this course, and while I wish we could help each of them purchase their dream business assets, I know they will be able to soon enough if they continue to show the same drive and passion demonstrated throughout the Buckner entrepreneurship incubator,” Navarro said.
Prior to the pitch event, each of the entrepreneurs was involved in a new 10-week course developed by Buckner for economically-challenged families served by the Hope Center. The Buckner Entrepreneurship Incubator consisted of classes and coaching around business plan components including product/service descriptions, finances, marketing, sales and operations. The goal of the program is to elevate local businesses to generate greater profits and better prepare for the future.
Wells Fargo played a key role in making the inaugural Buckner entrepreneurship Incubator a success. Experts with Wells Fargo came out to the Buckner Family Hope Center at Penitas to help teach courses focusing on different aspects of a business plan and how the entrepreneurs could practically incorporate each lesson into their business practices.
“My favorite thing from the class was learning how to account better and marketing through a Facebook business page,” Anjali Santiago said.
The pitch event’s judges included Fred del Barrio, owner of several Rio Grande Valley McDonald’s franchises, Ruby De La Garza with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Martha Vera with Buckner International Missions.