Royal Purple

Artist wins business contest

UW-Whitewater sponsors Janesville Business Challenge to open new stores, revitalize downtown

Janesville%E2%80%99s+Block+42+retail+space%2C+located+%0Aon+North+Main+Street%2C+will+soon+be+home+%0Ato+four+new+businesses%2C+one+of+which+won+%0Athe+Janesville+Business+Challenge.
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Artist wins business contest

Janesville’s Block 42 retail space, located 
on North Main Street, will soon be home 
to four new businesses, one of which won 
the Janesville Business Challenge.

Janesville’s Block 42 retail space, located on North Main Street, will soon be home to four new businesses, one of which won the Janesville Business Challenge.

Janesville’s Block 42 retail space, located on North Main Street, will soon be home to four new businesses, one of which won the Janesville Business Challenge.

Janesville’s Block 42 retail space, located on North Main Street, will soon be home to four new businesses, one of which won the Janesville Business Challenge.

Brad Allen, Biz & Tech Editor

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Baking and art.
These are the two passions that inspired Clarissa Taylor to start her own cake business and eventually resulted in her being declared the winner of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater sponsored Janesville Business Challenge.
Taylor, who owns Sweet Velvet Cakes, said she is anxious, nervous and excited to open her store in time for the holiday season.
“It’s such an honor to have had this opportunity,” Taylor said. “It’s really overwhelming.”
The Janesville Business Challenge was a project that intended to breathe new life into downtown Janesville by opening four new businesses in the Block 42 retail space on North Main Street in Janesville.
Three of those businesses have headquarters located in Pensacola, Florida. The fourth business was chosen after a summer-long contest to determine an entrepreneur most likely to succeed in the storefront.
Janesville Business Challenge Director Bekki Kennedy said her role was to establish the challenge in Wisconsin, manage the mentors of this project and lead the contest and all of its components.
“There’s been a lot of work done to revitalize downtown Janesville,” Kennedy said. “The goal is to make the downtown area more vibrant.”
Kennedy was chosen to lead the Janesville project by her parents, UW-W alumni Quint and Rishy Studer, whom have left their own economic footprint in the Janesville community and their community in Pensacola, Florida. The couple successfully conducted a similar project in Pensacola in 2009.
“We want this to be beneficial for all of the finalists, and not just the winner, as well as the community at large,” Kennedy said. “The more businesses that get started, the better. So going forward, I will continue to look for other opportunities in the downtown area for each of the finalists to keep the momentum going.”

How the challenge worked
More than 60 contestants signed up for the Janesville Business Challenge when it began in May. Throughout the summer, classes were held by three UW-W professors. COBE  mentors also offered assistance to contestants with forming their own business plans along the way.
“Not everyone who entered put a full business plan together,” Taylor said. “It was challenging, but rewarding.”
By the end of August, the number of contestants had been narrowed down to eight finalists. The finalists individually met with 11 judges in the Janesville Block 42 “Challenge Space” on Sept. 20 for a “Shark Tank” style event. Contestants were given seven minutes to present their business ideas.
During the “Shark Tank” event, several non-finalists who participated in the challenge presented their businesses in the non-challenge space of Block 42 to a crowd of 200 attendees. Some of them were offered business spaces by realtors. The crowd “spilled out onto the sidewalk and into the street,” Kennedy said.
After the meeting concluded, the judges emerged from their calibration room to declare the winner: Sweet Velvet Cakes.
“The university did quite a good job organizing the Shark Tank event,” Rishy Studer said. “It was done very professionally, I was very impressed.”
As a prize for winning the business competition, Sweet Velvet Cakes will receive free rent for its first year, greatly reduced rent for its second year and reduced rent for its third year of business. These savings will total more than $25,000.
The business will also be given a $25,000 cash advance toward storefront improvements and will receive at least $30,000 in free advertising.

The four new businesses
In addition to Sweet Velvet Cakes, the other three businesses that will expand into Block 42 include “Bodacious Brew,” a liquor store, “Bodacious Olive,” a gourmet olive oil, coffee, wine and cheese shop and “So Chopped,” a store that specializes in high-quality salads.
Bodacious Olive, Bodacious Brew and So Chopped will open near the end of October. Sweet Velvet Cakes will open in early November.
When Taylor heard about the Janesville Business Challenge from a friend, she was skeptical but hopeful to advance to the final round of judging. To be declared the winner of the competition, however, was an outcome she had not at all anticipated.
“The journey has been a great experience,” Taylor said. “I really learned a lot.”
Sweet Velvet Cakes focuses on specialty cakes and is the only business in town that sells French macaroons.
“Clarissa was already an established baker, but without a storefront,” Kennedy said. “She’s known not just for her baking, but also her artistic ability as she makes flowers and cake toppers. She’s an artist as well as a baker. She has a good business background and unique skills.”

What happens next?
COBE has offered to continue mentoring contestants of the Janesville Business Challenge.
“We’re committed to outreach and are open to conducting similar events in the future,” COBE Business Outreach Director Denise Ehlen said.
Kennedy and Studer both said they feel connected to each of the eight finalists and want them all to be successful in the future.
“There were some really incredible businesses,” Studer said. “There wasn’t one that I wouldn’t want in that space. It was a hard decision.”
Ehlen echoed those sentiments.
“It was an honor to get to know and work with these entrepreneurs,” Ehlen said. “Wonderful people are following their dreams.”

About the Writer
Brad Allen, Assistant Copy Editor

Email: [email protected]

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Artist wins business contest