The RISE Collaborative.
The RISE Collaborative.

RISE Collaborative in South Boston has announced the winners of its inaugural regional Business Pitch Competition. The event featured 13 businesses competing in either the Startup or Grow categories, for a chance to win a portion of $18,500 in total prize funds. Here are the winners.

Growth category

The Grow category included existing businesses that demonstrated a concept that would scale their business. Each of the businesses that pitched in this category is already established with customer relationships, suppliers and marketing strategies. There was a tie for 1st place, with Valhalla Organics (Allison “Ruby” Reid-Cunningham) of Halifax and RCFlyBy (Ryland Clark) of Halifax each earning $5,000 to grow their businesses.

Valhalla produces homegrown and hand-crafted pickles and preserves, which they sell to customers across the country through their website and locally through partnerships with local retail stores. This year, Valhalla is expected to double production and plans to use the winnings to procure the labels, jars, and vinegar they will need for this production season. 

RCFlyBy is a drone company that produces picture and video services for real estate, construction monitoring, event, farming and personal needs. Currently, RCFlyBy provides these services in Virginia and surrounding areas in North Carolina and West Virginia. As the construction of solar farms becomes more prevalent, there is increasing demand from solar developers to document these months-long construction projects. With the winnings, RCFlyBy plans to purchase an additional drone and hire its first employee who would help the business meet the growing demand for specialty drone services. 

The third place prize of $3,000 was awarded to Factory Street Brewing Company (presented by two of the three owners, Lisa Francisco and Brigid Layman). Factory Street is Halifax County’s first craft microbrewery. With 30% of their customers traveling from outside a 50-mile radius, they plan to use the winnings to assist in the purchase of a crowler to can their beer. 


The Startup category featured pitches from businesses that are very early in their process of becoming established and launching. Premier Endeavors (Eboni Freeman) and B&C Brewing Co. (presented by two of the three owners, Sam Bowles and Craig Titus) each received a $1,000 Startup Award. 

Premier Endeavors in Farmville provides quality custom apparel, featuring small order quantities, same-day production, and local pickup and delivery. The prize funds will be used to purchase inventory and better equipment for improved product offerings. 

B&C Brewing Co. plans to open a brewery and cigar lounge on the Amelia County/Chesterfield County line. The winnings will be used to establish their digital presence and purchase small pieces of equipment to help launch their brand. 

Women-owned businesses

The SOVA Female Founders Fund for Women-Owned Businesses was created with the intention to provide additional support and encouragement to female entrepreneurs who demonstrated perseverance and grit in pursuing their vision. Winners of this category were: Toasted by Southern Plenty (Mary Bagwell) and Sweetcakes by the Cheesecake Lady (Tara Lucas), who each received $1,250. 

Toasted by Southern Plenty in Halifax County is an expansion of the retail business of Southern Plenty, selling gift boxes online that contain products from women-owned businesses, that are eco-friendly, are locally made or from companies that give back. Mary Bagwell is a lifelong entrepreneur, creating crafts to sell in junior high and high school, and has owned seven businesses as an adult. She started Southern Plenty in 2010. 

Sweetcakes by the Cheesecake Lady in Martinsville started with Tara Lucas’ love of cheesecake, and when she couldn’t find New York-style cheesecake locally, she began making her own. She has been making cheesecake for the last 20 years, incrementally growing this passion from making cheesecakes for family and friends, to selling her cheesecakes, to acquiring a local bakery and becoming the owner of Sweetcakes in Henry County in May 2022. 

Rising Star Award 

The Rising Star Award was created to encourage and empower young people to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and showcase their innovative ideas. This $1,000 award was presented to Frankie’s Spicy Farm (9-year-old Frankie Martinez, and his mom Alejandra Martinez) of Halifax County. Frankie’s Spicy Farm is a hot sauce brand “made by a kid, for kids” that features hot sauces designed to introduce kids to a little bit of spice. Frankie was a completer of the RISE CO.STARTERS Generator youth entrepreneurship program.