On Friday, May 17th, the BE In Abilene program awarded $200,000 in cash to two local entrepreneurs who competed in this year’s competition. The program was organized by multiple local agencies including the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA), Abilene Industrial Foundation (AIF), Abilene Christian University’s Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and America’s Small Business Development Center at Texas Tech (SBDC); each of which provided a unique resource to these individuals.
Funded by the DCOA, the program’s goal is designed to carry out the primary objective of the city’s economic development strategic plan of implementing an innovation ecosystem. In short, create an avenue to fund and support local entrepreneurs through competition with an eye to long-term job creation. This home-grown approach to economic development is innovative, leveraging ½-cent sale tax dollars to help foster and grow entrepreneurial companies in Abilene – creating jobs in Abilene, by Abilene.
Last year was the inaugural year for the BE in Abilene program, which showcased a diverse pool of finalists, funding two companies, setting a strong precedent for the program. This year is no different, the final round of 2019’s competition is composed of five teams representing five diverse industries; each team with their own unique niche in their respective markets.
We are very pleased to announce that this year, two teams were selected by the independent judging panel as award winners. The two companies receiving funding this year are, Unique Kid Beds and Sockdolager Brewing Company.
Unique Kid Beds manufactures custom themed playhouse beds for children. The company has been manufacturing custom furniture for the past 13-years, honing their craft and product lines. Unique Kid Beds exports 99 percent of their products outside of Abilene, with the majority reaching destinations outside of Texas. In the past two years the company has started to ship product to international markets. The company has hit critical mass with their production and will use the funds they receive to build out a full production team and purchase equipment, which will automate a portion of their process, allowing them to cut down on production time and increase their speed to market, growing their production by an estimated 15 percent.
Sockdolager Brewing Company is a local craft beer brewery, which opened its doors in March of 2017, with an eye to quality and consistency. Despite the company’s age, it has quickly taken root as a crowd favorite throughout west Texas. The company distributes its products to other west Texas markets outside of Abilene. Sockdolager has developed a brand with high demand for its products which exceeds their production capacity. The brewery will use their funding to purchase new brew house equipment which will increase their production by an estimated 40 percent, enabling them to grow their sales territory in Texas.
The two winners are required to complete a three-year compliance agreement with the DCOA to ensure each business meets established post-award guidelines. Each winner will also receive ongoing support that includes regular meetings with the SBDC to ensure each business has the necessary tools and information to succeed.
These two companies represent the entrepreneurial spirit and talent that is found in Abilene and provide economic growth is not solely tied to outside investment. This investment can be fostered from within the city limits through the backing of entrepreneurial companies. The bar has been set high over the past two years of competition; we look forward to seeing next year’s pool of applicants.