Another impressive year for startUP

Pictured, from left are Monroe County startUP board member George Obernagel, startUP Entrepreneur of the Year Kambrie Cooper and board member Justin Wilkerson. Cooper received her award May 3, after the class graduation ceremony. Obernagel, Wilkerson and Joe Koppeis (not pictured) all contribute to the Entrepreneur of the Year prize. On Friday, startUP held its Business Plan Competition, with local community members serving as judges. The winners were Maggie Meppiel, Cooper and Alex Patrick. Meppiel and Cooper received $400 each, and Patrick received $200.

Recently, Monroe County startUP students saw the two most anticipated parts of the year – the announcement of entrepreneur of the year and the annual trade show. 

Kambrie Cooper, the driving force behind Village Roots – a clay earring business – was named entrepreneur of the year Tuesday morning. 

“It is based on the student’s entrepreneurial spirit, work within their business and how they have grown throughout the year,” Monroe County startUP facilitator Jamie Matthews said of the prestigious award. 

Cooper, who was awarded $2,250, was chosen by a selection committee of two board members. 

Cooper’s award came days after a successful trade show held at 11 South in Columbia. 

Matthews said that the eight new, student-led businesses (all of which featured a startUP student at the helm) made approximately $3,000 in sales combined at last Wednesday’s trade show. 

She added approximately 100 community members gathered at 11 South to support the students.

“All the work that we put in over the past few months came to this,” said startUP entrepreneur and Columbia High School senior Elizabeth Bowler. 

Like her other startUP classmates, last Wednesday was seen as the public debut of Bowler’s business. Bowler is the owner of Happiest Apparel, a clothing brand that spreads positivity through its optimistic designs. 

CHS junior and startUP entrepreneur Karly Hoggard, owner of Glowing Flame, also had a successful trade show selling her candles. 

She said startUP allowed her to turn a hobby borne out of the pandemic – upcycling china and glassware found at thrift stores into wooden wick candles – into much more. 

“Through startUP, I learned how I could turn this into a business to make a profit,” Hoggard said, elaborating that the program gave her the confidence and communication skills necessary to invest in herself. 

Hoggard’s candles will soon be carried at Khoury Pharmacy in Columbia. 

The story behind Happiest Apparel is similar to that of Glowing Flame. Bowler said she received a Cricut machine last year for her birthday, allowing her to iron designs onto clothing. 

With startUP, she was able to make her dream of crafting Instagram-worthy clothing designs a reality. 

The startup costs and first three months of operational costs for the eight businesses were funded through their class project, Monroe County on Ice. 

Matthews explained the students pitched their businesses to each other, along with the estimated seed money needed, and then allocated the money accordingly. 

In total, Monroe County on Ice – which allowed locals to skate on a portable synthetic ice skating rink at Columbia City Hall – raised over $17,000, Matthews said. 

Bowler served as that event’s chief executive officer. 

“Just to be able to see us come together to create that event and then take the earnings to do our own businesses was super rewarding,” Bowler said. 

From the very first day of the startUP class meeting the program’s cumulation at last week’s trade show, Matthews said one thing held constant: 

“The community support is incredible,” she said, adding “I had a couple of people come up to me and say ‘This is my favorite event of the year.’” 

She said seeing the trade show advertised on signs across town and the large turnout were just a few testaments to this fact. 

For more about Monroe County startUP, visit

Connect with this year’s startUP businesses: 

CalliLilly, calligraphy by Lilly


Glowing Flame Candles


Happiest Apparel

Etsy shop: HappiestApparel 

JRH Personal Training


M2 Designs

Patrick’s Power Washing


 The Soap Box


Village Roots


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