BREMERTON — Sequim Bee Farm took home the $20,000 grand prize awarded by Kitsap Bank in its 2018 edg3 FUND small business competition.
An oversized ceremonial check was given to owners Meg and Buddy DePew at a Thursday evening ceremony at the Kitsap Conference Center at Harborside in Bremerton.
The small, award-winning apiary at 193 Harbor Heights in Sequim was selected from a group of five finalists, each of whom gave a pitch before an audience of more than 250 people.
The four other finalists were Kodama Farm & Food Forest of Chimacum, Compost Manufacturing Alliance of Port Orchard, HandiMaps of Tacoma and Wood Originals of Bremerton.
Meg DePew said their farm was the final business to present on stage and when the announcement came that the business won, she sat in shock.
On stage, Buddy thanked everyone for their support.
“We appreciate everyone’s support,” Meg said. “A big part of this was having the community vote in the beginning. We knew we had so much support on the Olympic Peninsula.”
The DePews were among the 15 semi finalists following a two-week online voting period.
They have big plans for the contest winnings to expand operations and increase their efficiency.
“We will look at building an onsite commercial kitchen, automating our processing line and upgrading our website a little bit,” Meg said.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do things like talking to a distributor about expanding our market.”
Leading up to the contest, Buddy said automating his process of extracting honey will save him a lot of hours and allow him to spend more time with bees, including hives at nine Sequim-area lavender farms.
Meg said winning saves them about four or five years in financing new equipment.
“We plan to be completely ready to go by next harvest,” she said of the planned additions.
In the company’s mission statement, the couple wrote that their business seeks “to provide exceptional honey, raw and natural, to nourish the community, lighten lives with their beeswax candles, and to educate everyone about the honeybee, while protecting and caring for these necessary pollinators.”
At the ceremony in Bremerton, each presenter was challenged to make the case for why they deserved the $20,000 prize money and how it would be a game-changer for their company.
The DePews’ presentation and submission were chosen by an independent panel of judges of entrepreneurs, small business owners and venture capital investors.
“Sequim Farm is doing very important work addressing the preservation of the honey bee,” said Tony George, Kitsap Bank’s president and chief operating officer. “We expect great things from them and are pleased to provide them the ‘edg3’ they need to take their business to the next level.”
The businesses competing for the award were rated based on their commitment to the “triple bottom line” — entrepreneurs dedicated to growing their community economically, socially and environmentally, Kitsap Bank senior vice president Shannon Childs said.
The goal of the annual competition is to recognize small businesses that are not only working hard to make a profit but also are also having a positive impact on the community, she said.
Sponsors said they received applications from numerous entrepreneurs throughout Western Washington in industries ranging from technology and health products and services to environmental services, and food, beverage and agriculture products.
Dragonfly Cinema, a Port Orchard independent movie theater, was presented the Community edg3 Award and a $5,000 cash prize. The award went to a business from among the 15 semifinalists that, in the judges’ opinion, best embodied the spirit of community, based on its submitted application and video.
The theater is owned by Nick and Gabrielle Taylor, who have established the annual Port Orchard Film Festival that takes place each spring in the movie theater. The owners said they reinvest funds back into the community through partnerships with local companies and nonprofit organizations.
Edg3 FUND was introduced in 2014 by Kitsap Bank’s Green Team to commemorate Earth Day, Childs said. It has continued as an annual event held during Global Entrepreneurship Week. The competition covers all of Kitsap Bank’s market area in Western Washington and is open to all small businesses.
Port Orchard Independent is part of the Kitsap News Group owned by Sound Publishing Inc. It is a sister paper to the Peninsula Daily News.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].