It may not have been quite as dramatic as surfer Mick Fanning‘s recent shark encounter, but one Western North Carolina business faced down a “shark” of its own last night and came out on top.
Farm-to-door produce delivery service Mother Earth Produce won big Tuesday evening in the the Miller Lite Tap The Future small-business competition semifinals in Atlanta, taking first place among five regional contestants (from a total of 30 semifinalists nationwide) and bringing home a $20,000 award.
Now in its third year, Tap The Future was created by Miller Lite to “empower [businesses’] passion, by providing the funding and resources needed to bring [their] vision to life,” according to Miller’s website on the competition. Semifinalists were selected from over 1,000 applicants, based on a written business proposal and description of their company and the motivation driving their work.
Each semi-finalist in the competition presented a live pitch to a panel of three judges, including fashion icon and marketing expert/”shark” Daymond John, a regular judge on ABC’s “Shark Tank” program. Contestants were judged on multiple aspects of their business model, including mission statement, marketing and branding strategies, financial organization and short and longterm goals for the company.
“The competition was exciting and surreal,” says Andrea DuVall, who founded and owns Mother Earth Produce with her husband, Graham. “There were some incredible companies there that we were able to listen to and learn from along with the feedback and guidance from all of the judges.”
Founded in 2012, Mother Earth Produce partners with local farms to deliver organic produce straight to consumers’ doors. “Sometimes hectic schedules and geographic location prohibit us from visiting farmer’s markets and supporting CSAs,” reads the company’s website biography. “We knew there must be a way for everyone in the community to have the option to incorporate a local food lifestyle regardless of busy lives.”
The company works with over 20 local farms and food producers to deliver fresh food across Western North Carolina and the South Carolina upstate. Customers can personalize their purchase online, place orders and have their produce delivered free of extra charge to their doorstep.
“We had no idea that we would win, but we were so thankful to be able to spread the word about local food and our local farms to such a large audience,” says DuVall of their victory last night.
From here, Mother Earth Produce will advance to compete in the final stage of the competition as one of six regional winners from across the nation. The finals will be held in Chicago on Sept. 19, where each contestant will present a 20-minute live sales pitch to a panel of judges selected by Miller, similar to the set up of the “Shark Tank” television show.
Finalists will be judged on various aspects of their business plan as well as their live presentations. The grand prize winner will take home $200,000 dollars to help support and expand his or her business model.
DuVall says that they will spend the time leading up to the finals crafting an extended business plan, as well as practicing their live pitch on friends and fellow businesses.
“We feel so thankful to be able to meet the top five companies in the nation in Chicago,” she adds. “We will do our very best to represent Asheville!”
For more information on the Miller Lite Tap The Future business competition, a profile of past winners and information on contest rules and eligibility, check out mltapthefuture.com. To learn more about Mother Earth Produce and its mission, partners, produce and communities it serves, visit motherearthproduce.com.