Lewellen Blooms LLC in North Judson came out on top of a crowded field of contestants to win the fourth annual 2023 Starke Tank Countywide Small Business Pitch Competition.
Lewellen Blooms received a $10,000 prize and a one-year Starke County Chamber of Commerce membership. Owners Lewis and Joellen Matzat plan to use their prize to build a website and greenhouse, and add more perennials, irrigation, land and staff to operate their larger farm.
The greenhouse would extend their growing season by about nine weeks, which in turn would increase their profit. The irrigation system would add about an acre of tillable ground to their cut-flower farm. They sell to customers and florists, as well as a flower subscription service.
“Starke Tank is unique because all of the prize money comes from local sources,” Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Lisa Dan said in a press release. “The city of Knox was this year’s presenting sponsor, but we also received funds from our local utilities, solar developers, banks, Realtors, industries and service-oriented businesses. They know how important a robust small business community is to the county’s overall growth and well-being.”
This year’s runner up was Papa Farm Pizza in downtown Knox. Owners Lenny and Julie Dessauer plan to use their $5,000 runner up prize to add a new hood vent, larger fryer and a cooktop to their kitchen. They own a storefront and a wood-fired pizza trailer that is popular at festivals and events.
Nine contestants vied for the prizes, including Tasty Treats & Eats in Knox, Alley Side Café in Knox, Honey Bee Creations in San Pierre, Starke County Graphics in North Judson, Elite Truck & Auto in Knox, Renew U in Knox, and Hard Knox Gym in Knox.
“The judges even remarked how difficult a choice this was,” Dan said. “All three are from out of the area, and they were extremely impressed with Starke County’s entrepreneurial spirit.”
The winner is required to establish, grow or expand a business in Starke County.
Last year Irelynd Alexis Boutique in downtown Knox won the $12,000 first prize. Bone Boss Game Calls placed second and won $6,000.
The Starke County Economic Development Foundation is a not-for-profit economic development organization that promotes opportunities in Starke County, the city of Knox, and the towns of North Judson and Hamlet.
Caption: Starke Tank 2022 runner-up Dalton Tunis, Mary Perren and Lisa Dan from the Starke County Economic Development Foundation, Lewellen Blooms owners Lewis and Joellen Matzat, and Knox Mayor Dennis Estok were on hand for the 2023 awards ceremony. (Photo by Mark Ridley)