Beekeeping business finds success with Advantage Valley programs

Sugar Bottom Farm has been able to grow its impact with the help of a FASTER WV grant (Photo via Sugar Bottom Farms Facebook).

Advantage Valley, a nonprofit economic development organization based in West Virginia’s Metro Valley, announced its second awarded $50,000 loan through its FASTER WV Program to Clay County business Sugar Bottom Farm, and proprietors Eric and Mary Grandon. The FASTER WV program helps launch new businesses and grow existing businesses in Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Clay, Kanawha, Lincoln, Putnam, and Wayne Counties. 

Eric and his wife Mary, of Clay County, are first generation farmers and run Sugar Bottom Farm, established in 2014 as a way to combat PTSD associated with Eric’s war deployments during his 20-year career with the US Army. They began producing molasses and slowly added honeybees, honey-bee equipment and supplies, raw honey, and finally, Honey-Bee-Value-Added products. They have successfully grown the company and now have 16 retail locations that carry products in 5 WV counties and 1 location in Ohio. The FASTER WV loan will help Sugar Bottom Farm build a new honey processing, packaging, and storage facility; add 75 more colonies; and hire new employees. 

According to Terrell Ellis, Advantage Valley Executive Director, “Sugar Bottom Farms has established a great reputation producing high-quality honey and related products. Eric took full advantage of our business coaching and entrepreneurial training to take his business to the next level and qualify for one of our business expansion loans.” “We see this loan as a way to help further Eric’s goal to hire 5 additional employees and build Sugar Bottom Farms’ national e-commerce market,” said Christy Laxton, Executive Director of the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority, manager of the FASTER WV Revolving Loan fund. 

“The FASTER WV program has been the best thing we’ve ever participated in. It’s a literal one-stop-shop for small business,” said Eric.  

Eric and Mary are expanding their successful business operation and increasing honey sales while continuing to invite other trauma survivors to their farm so they too can experience the healing powers of beekeeping. 

In order to assist additional businesses, FASTER WV will offer a virtual webinar for those interested in opening or expanding a food production business. “Steps to Scaling-Up Your Food & Beverage Business” will be offered on May 13 at 6 pm (register here). This one-hour free webinar will educate entrepreneurs on the process of growing a food and beverage business in the Advantage Valley region. Sari Kimbell, Founder & CEO of Food Business Success, and Consumer Packaged Food Industry Expert, will be the featured panelist. Participants will learn about free business coaching, online classes, loan funding, and how to use local commercial kitchens and co-packing companies to bring their product to market. Advantage Valley will also unveil a new program to link participating food producers to technical assistance from Ms. Kimbell, a national expert in this sector. 

FASTER WV partners include the WV Small Business Development Center, BridgeValley Community & Technical College, Unlimited Future, Inc., and The Wyoming County Economic Development Authority.

Major funding for the FASTER WV program is provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, with additional support from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Unlimited Future, Inc., Truist, and the USDA. To learn more about the FASTER WV Program, click here or call Advantage Valley at 304-352-1165.

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