In conjunction with the recent opening of the Hard Rock Casino in Bristol, VA, Virginia Community Capital (VCC), a statewide community development financial institution, is assisting the Virginia Small Business Administration (VSBA) in hosting a pitch contest this fall. Businesses led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and/or women owners from the region are encouraged to apply.
The contest will award five $10,000 prizes for business operation expenses along with the opportunity to partner with the Hard Rock Casino in providing locally made goods and services. The concept came about after a recent Southwest Virginia Economic Forum, where Sandy Ratliff, Vice President for Community Innovation at Virginia Community Capital, and Carl B. Knoblock, Richmond Director of the VSBA, saw opportunity to exponentially build upon the economic growth of the area.
President of Hard Rock Bristol, Allie Evangelista, quickly and enthusiastically agreed with the idea remarking that, “We are excited to open opportunities to local entrepreneurs to showcase the talent and beauty of the Bristol area.” While working to plan and execute the contest, Carl B. Knoblock noted that, “This promising opportunity for small business owners is both positive and exciting for the future of the community.” Ms. Ratliff similarly reflected on the potential ahead, saying that, “A rising tide lifts all boats. I think Southwestern Virginia will see the tide rise with this project.”
As a mission-driven organization, Virginia Community Capital aims to create jobs, energize places, and promote enhanced quality of life for Virginians. The Community Innovation team at VCC will conduct outreach to women-led and BIPOC-led businesses across the region to expand the list of candidates that may be chosen for procurement needs. Beyond sustainable vendor relationships, business owners will have promotional opportunities and, if chosen, the potential to extend sales beyond the Bristol location to other Hard Rock venues. The contest will also open opportunities with other casinos under development in Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth.
Participants located within the 25 counties of the Appalachian Regional Commission of Southwest Virginia are welcome to apply. The full application and guidelines are available online, with a deadline of October 21. Entrants will be evaluated by the general public along with a panel of judges. Winners will be announced during a celebration to be held this fall.