Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Fresh ideas for downtown
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Mar 19, 2014, 14:05

Sara Lane Jackson, left, and Sharon Neal, right, were presented with a $2,500 check for having the winning ideas at the Ignite Hopewell event.

HOPEWELL — An urban garden. A Summer Art Camp. A spa.

These were a few of the ideas presented by local entrepreneurs at a recent event held by the Hopewell Downtown Partnership, Ignite Hopewell.

This Ignite event has been held in different places all over the world, and gives participants a chance to present their business projects and ideas to the community. Each presenter is allowed five minutes to tell the crowd about their idea.

Evan Kaufman, the executive director of the Downtown Partnership, learned of this kind of event at a conference.

“They did one in Harrisonburg and Staunton, and I thought, why not Hopewell?” Kaufman said.

The event was held in order to bring ideas to the table on how to revitalize the downtown area, while getting the community involved.

“We want mom and pop type businesses, local businesses, community projects and in order to find the people who are going to be the next generation of business owners and leaders in the downtown, we decided to have this project,” said Kaufman.

One presenter at the event was Sharon Neal, who spoke at the event representing area Girl Scout troop 3001. Her presentation was about taking an empty lot in the downtown area and turning it into an urban garden, giving community members the chance to get involved and grow their own produce, while adding color to the streets.

“If you look around, where are the people, where are the picnic tables? There’s no greenery, and there’s nothing to draw you here,” Neal said during her presentation.

A variety of different plants would be grown in the garden, such as produce, herbs, and flowers. The project would allow the community to grow products and then in turn sell them for profit.

The event also gave business owners a chance to share their projects. Dani Antol gave a presentation about her business in Charlottesville, Rock Paper Scissors. Antol was 24-years-old when she bought the business, and worked hard to keep it afloat, and now owns a booming business which has been featured in numerous national publications.

The majority of the presenters were also there for another reason. A panel of judges watched each presentation and at the end of the event, a winner was chosen. The winner received a check for $2,500 to bring their idea to fruition.

The judges could not decide on a single winner, so a tie was called. The two winners that were chosen were Girl Scout Troop 3001, whose idea for an urban garden was presented by Sharon Neal, and Sara Lane Jackson, who had the idea of having an art summer camp.

The $2,500 prize will be split between the two winners to begin funding their ideas. But Kaufman also announced that the Downtown Partnership will work on raising $2,500 more, so that each winner will be able to receive the whole prize amount.

Another prize was given to Faithea Flowers for her idea of a physical and financial fitness program, in order to motivate and educate community members to be active and improve their quality of life. Flowers received a one-hour technical assistance session to help improve her website.

Other presenters at the Ignite Hopewell event included the Hopewell High School Future Business Leaders of America, Emil Grant and Angel DeCarlo, Dave McCormack, Dr. Cliff Morris and Becky McDonough.

“We might be a small community, but when we start doing things here and things happen, people will start to recognize that things can actually happen here,” Kaufman said.

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