Chris Hernstrom, co-owner of Bolo Beer Co., and Jessica Coyle, owner of Auntie D’s Gift and Coffee Shop, are the winners of the Valentine Business Plan Challenge. Both businesses are in Valentine.

Mid-Plains Community College and the Valentine Economic Development Board offered the challenge to promote the creation and expansion of businesses in and around the Heart City. Only businesses in existence for five years or less were allowed to enter.

A total of $15,000 in grant money was up for grabs. Judges opted to split the funds evenly between Hernstrom and Coyle. Hernstrom plans to use his winnings to purchase a tank that can be used to brew gluten-free hard cider.

“We get a lot of people asking for something other than beer and cider is a nice, refreshing beverage that we feel would go over well,” Hernstrom said. “We probably would have been able to purchase another tank in time, but thanks to the business plan challenge, we will be able to offer the cider faster.”

Coyle will use her winnings to add a gourmet line of baked goods, add part-time hours to an existing part-time employee position and expand inventory at Auntie D’s.

“I was very excited to be one of the winners of the business plan challenge,” Coyle said. “I felt like all the hard work I had put into the class and the business plan had paid off. I think the challenge is a really good thing for this area. Hopefully it will continue in Valentine so we can grow the business district and keep Main Street thriving.”

As part of the challenge, Hernstrom and Coyle also received free tuition and fees, a value of approximately $321, for a mandatory three-credit hour online Entrepreneurship Business Plan writing course offered by MPCC. The tuition was paid for by a scholarship from the Sandhills Area Foundation.

Jessica Coyle, owner of Auntie D’s Gift and Coffee Shop, and Chris Hernstrom, co-owner of Bolo Beer Co., won the 2019 Valentine Business Plan Challenge. Pictured left to right are: Coyle, Jeff Smeltzer, MPCC Business and Community Education coordinator, and Hernstrom.