January has been a good month for a Winterville brewery — owners recently broke ground on a 3,500-square-foot brewery and taproom, then on Saturday won $10,000 in the inaugural DreamFest competition.
“Overall our mission — I’m going to shorten it because we’re passionate people — is good beer, good friends and good stories,” Jon Tart, a co-owner with Nauti Dog Brewing Company, said during the oral presentation part of DreamFest. “We want to be more of a coffee shop where you have a great beer and hang out with your friends.”
Despite not having produced any beers under the Nauti Dog label, a panel of five judges believed in the vision laid out by Tart and awarded the Winterville operation the grand prize. A couple from Stantonsburg, Donna and James Flowers Sr., whose business is OMGoodness Pimento Cheese, was awarded $5,000 as the runner-up in the event sponsored by the Upper Coastal Plain Business Development Center.
“We’d tried many different ways to raise money for our mission trips, but nothing met our needs fast enough. So one day I was making pimento cheese, the neighbor came by to chat and asked for a sample,” said Donna Flowers. “… Quite literally she said, ‘Oh my goodness, this stuff is awesome.’”
She said despite not even liking pimento cheese, the neighbor loved it and recommended Flowers pursue it as a business. With the help of their church family, the Flowerses started selling the Southern delicacy in plain and jalapeño. To grow the business, though, they need to build a small kitchen building, and the money from the DreamFest competition will take them a step closer to their dream.
The third-place winner was a trio of Wilson businessmen, Rod Miller, Mark Hooper and Dave Christopherson, who developed a wearable utility cutter with a spring-loaded blade to allow users to cut open boxes when they want, but keep the blade retracted when they are doing other tasks. Users toss the dull Sharksztooth Redi Blade in the recycling bin rather than risk injury while replacing the blade.
“What is wrong with a regular utility knife? Everything,” said Christopherson. “The No. 1 problem has to do with safety. In the U.S., 250,000 people injure themselves with utility blades every year.”
The trio had hoped to win the grand prize to manufacture the first batch of the product and find companies to manufacture the Redi Blade. Nauti Dog’s owners said they’ll use the money to purchase a pilot system that will allow brewer/owner Janis Smith to produce small experimental batches rather than hundreds of gallons at a time.
Nauti Dog owners had originally planned to open on the Rocky Mount Mills campus but opted to invest in their hometown of Winterville.
They weren’t the only brewery that made it to the final round of DreamFest, but HopFly Brewing Company owner Cameron Schulz fell short of the prize money to hire an employee for his taproom and expand packaging for his beers. The judges tried HopFly’s Jalapeño Saison while listening to his bid to broaden the reach of beers that “challenge your pallet and fuel your adventures.”
“My pitch is I’ve moved to Rocky Mount, I’ve invested my life into trying to create a business that nationwide has a proven track record of creating jobs and development,” Schulz said.
The other two contestants in the Shark Tank-style competition were Felicia and Kelvin Lucas with His Glory Creations Publishing from Wendell and Wilsonian David Engstrom pitching Blue Ridge Power System.
The Wendell couple wanted money to expand their programs to offer publishing to teens and adults who have overcome struggles in life, while Engstrom wanted seed money to bring to market his system to upfit homes for wireless zone heating and cooling.
The successful entrepreneurs — Ken Adelglass and Julius Tillery — served as keynote speakers at DreamFest. They used their experiences to inspire others.
“When Cortes landed at Veracruz, he told his crew to burn the ships because he didn’t want the option to go back. He knew they had to go forward,” said Adelglass. “When I started Waxhaw Kid Coders, I knew I had an opportunity, and I had to burn my ships.”
He quit his job, and despite negative opinions from others, he kept moving forward and has hundreds of kids participating in coding summer camps every year. Tillery echoed Adelglass’ sentiments, encouraging everyone to dream big.
“We have to use our resources and make opportunities out of them,” he said. “I want to inspire you to use all the opportunities that exist to you and dream big.”
OMGoodness Pimento Cheese co-owners Donna and James Flowers Sr., right, congratulate Nauti Dog Brewing Company co-owner Jon Tart on winning the grand prize Saturday during the inaugural DreamFest.