By Rafael Guerrero
Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.
Yakima Hop Candy, a business specializing in hops-infused lollipops, has won the sixth annual Enterprise Challenge business plan competition.
The Yakima business sells LolliHops, boutique pops infused with locally grown hops. They come in more than 14 natural flavors and can be found in certain retailers or available online at www.yakimahopcandy.com. As the winner, owner Heather Hadsel receives a $10,000 grand prize.
The Enterprise Challenge is run by New Vision, Yakima County’s economic development arm, and the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce. It is designed to support promising new ventures in the region. Contestants attend classes and sessions during their months-long process leading up to the announcement.
It started in October and featured several educational events where contestants could learn more about starting and managing a business.
“It was a lot of work,” said Hadsel in a phone interview Friday after a luncheon announcing the winners. “It’s a four-month challenge. (The win) is definitely helpful.”
She said she would use the money to expand the business’ kitchen space, which is only about 10 feet by 10 feet.
The victory continues a whirlwind year for Yakima Hop Candy, which began operations in December 2014. In that timespan, LolliHops expanded into 70 retailers in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.’
The goal for 2016 is to reach 250 retailers by year’s end, Hadsel said.
“I think it’s a pretty conservative goal,” she added.
Pearl Street Optical of Ellensburg finished second. Owner Rachel Crites won $5,000. Pearl Street Optical offers eyewear such as glasses, contact lenses, goggles, safetywear and repairs.
Mama Hogue’s Kitchen of Yakima took third place and a $2,500 prize for owner Sabin Hogue. Mama Hogue’s Kitchen sells home-cooked meals to go.
Jean Brown, business development manager at New Vision and coordinator of the Enterprise Challenge, praised the other final contestants as well.
“This group of finalists impressed all the judges; they are a committed group of entrepreneurs — all of them have enormous potential in terms of launching or growing their businesses,” Brown said in a news release.
“Everyone is a winner in our contest. The hardest part is not having prize money for everyone.”
According to Brown, the contest has helped more than 130 contestants over the last six years.
“We are always on the lookout for ways to give entrepreneurs a contest experience that provides them with the tools they need to be successful,” she said.