Business booming for startUPs

Pictured is Bridget Whaley of Bee’s Sweets at her table during last week’s Monroe County startUP Trade Show at 11 South in Columbia. 

With the end of the school year on the horizon, this year’s Monroe County startUP program is similarly coming to a close – though students did get a chance to showcase their businesses during the annual trade show held last Wednesday at 11 South in Columbia.

A wide variety of student businesses were featured this year, with several highlighting an interest in fashion, others describing skills with hands-on outdoor work and still others covering a range of other niche services.

Among the outdoorsy students was Larkin Nottmeier with Weed Warriors, a business specializing in clearing a variety of vegetation from customers’ property.

Nottmeier said she specializes in invasive plant species like kudzu, though a particular interest of hers is honeysuckle.

She said the idea for her business came from her own ecology interest. Bringing her own tools to each job, Nottmeier hopes to take care of customers while preserving the environment.

“It’s kind of like a passion project for me because my family has land out in Hecker, and honeysuckle is a huge issue in Monroe County and a lot of surrounding areas,” Nottmeier said. “Honeysuckle kills a lot of new growth like oak trees and hardwood trees and stuff like that. It will kill off the seedlings, and so all of the big trees that you see around are some of the last ones you’re gonna see unless we can kill off the honeysuckle.”

Bridget Whaley served as the culinary representation among this year’s startUP class. Her business, Bee’s Sweets, is a bakery specializing in macarons, a meringue-based dessert.

Whaley offers macarons in vanilla, strawberry and triple chocolate flavors, with mixed berry serving as her current seasonal choice.

Her interest in baking started in just the last few years, with COVID-19 quarantines serving as an excellent excuse to experiment in the kitchen.

“I started making macarons over COVID after watching some YouTube videos,” Whaley said. “It’s not really something that’s in the market around here, so I thought it would be a great place to start.”

Wonderfully Made Exfoliating Company, created by Grace Crossley, offers exfoliating scrubs for those looking to pamper themselves.

Crossley said her nutrient-dense scrubs – made using clean ingredients – are meant to get rid of all the dead skin cells and dirt that can build up on your skin.

Like Whaley’s baking, Crossley said she developed an interest in exfoliating self-care during the height of the pandemic, later using the hobby for her business idea.

“COVID was very boring for me, so I spiced it up and I made scrubs just for fun,” Crossley said. “And then I joined this program and I thought ‘I have no idea what I’m doing.’ And then I’m like, ‘Well, I know how to do scrubs. I love scrubs.’ So I decided to make clean ingredient exfoliating scrubs.”

This year’s 10 other businesses include services like custom acrylic nail shop thenailclub, Ace Grips golf club personalization and toddler clothing designer Wild Child Clothing.

Monroe County startUP program facilitator Jamie Matthews spoke highly of this year’s personal businesses, noting how passionate each of the students have been about their projects.

Matthews also remarked on the adversity these students faced earlier this year in putting together the class projects.

Students originally tried to organize a concert at the Rock City cave business development in Valmeyer. When the Valmeyer Village Board denied that request, they later found themselves putting together a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

“Their personal businesses, they have really poured themselves into that,” Matthews said. “It’s been a different year, but it’s been good because everything they experienced is real life. So we kind of encourage and welcome that because we want them to have the real stuff and not, you know, we gloss over and sugarcoat it.”

Monroe County startUP Board Chairman George Obernagel similarly praised the students for their businesses as well as their persistence in tackling a rather difficult planning process for the class project.

“These kids went through a hell of a lot with their class project, but I think these kids here, with their personal projects, they spent a lot of time,” Obernagel said. “I think all of them did great with their tables and cards. They worked very, very hard on their personal business.”

Obernagel further noted that, while some of the students will likely step away from their business as they go to college, he hopes some will continue.

“Myself, personally, I’ll probably call them and use some of these people,” Obernagel said.

For more information on Monroe County startUP, visit monroecountystartup.com.

This year’s businesses

Bee’s Sweets by Bridget Whaley; EE Sneaks by Emma Ebner; thenailclub by Carissa Groves; Wonderfully Made Exfoliating Co. by Grace Crossley; Wild Child Baby Clothing by Joli Barnett; Dorm Reform by Katie Goldschmidt; Weed Warriors by Larkin Nottmeier; Upcycle Outfitting by Macie Pulcher; MoCo Oil by Max Barthel; Ace Grips by Nick Janik; Care & Companionship by Megan Elliott; Goessling Landscaping by Riley Goessling; Everything Under the Sun by Sabrina Leingang

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Andrew Unverferth

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