MISSION, March 13 - The City of Mission is attempting to create a “new playing field” for small businesses in the Rio Grande Valley by offering startup funding.
At last month’s Mission Economic Development Corporation meeting, Mission leaders announced the first winners of its Ruby Red Ventures grant.
The grand prize went to tortilla chip maker, El Yaqui Mexican Corp., which received $25,000 to begin marketing its product in locations outside of the Valley.
Other winners included window cleaning service, Brilliant Elegance, which was awarded $10,000. Technologic Marketing Solutions received $5,000. That company has developed an informational app with contact info for doctors across the entire Valley. Opportunity Wall, a bulletin website in the style of Craigslist, but catering solely to students in college, received $2,000.
“We are a building maintenance, window cleaning and janitorial company. We were founded here in Mission, but we service the entire Valley,” said Brilliant Elegance owner Samuel Shipp. The company contracts with Chili’s Restaurants and H-E-B’s in various locations, Shipp said.
“The process was actually very beneficial. We were able to put together a business plan for the company, and this helped me see what we need to do better,” Shipp said. “We hope to be able to expand and grow.”
The Mission EDC and the Mission City Council unanimously approved the creation of Ruby Red Ventures last July. Ruby Red is a $100,000 small business fund that aims to nurture entrepreneurial spirit and promote the creation of innovative businesses in the city.
In particular, it seeks to encourage entrepreneurially oriented Rio Grande Valley residents to expand and or launch new ventures. The goal is to allow participants to gain a better understanding of how to develop and follow a realistic business plan, as well as provide the participants with forums in which they develop skills in presenting their ventures.
“We do mobile applications, and this time we went with the medical app, the MedHood, which is our first product,” said Jimena Cantu, who along with Rosendo Martinez founded TMS. “This is a medical app where people can look for healthcare providers, not just doctors, but medical facilities, home healthcare, non-emergency transportation, dentists.
“The idea was to bring useful information to the user to help them choose a particular service,” Cantu said.
Mission EDC had over 18 applicants last fall. Initial workshops began later that month, and business plans were reviewed by Mission EDC officials before applicants made their presentations.
“We said, ‘let’s create new playing field for the guy that has one or two employees, let’s give them the opportunity we give big businesses, to apply for some funding,” said Mission EDC President and CEO Alex Meade. “We chose the name Ruby Red because we are the home of the Ruby Red Grapefruit, and when you think about entrepreneurship and innovation, at the time that was entrepreneurship and innovation at its finest.”
Registration for the next round began Feb. 1 and continues until March 31. Winners will be announced by later summer, according to EDC officials.
Ruby Red consists of two rounds of funding per year at $50,000 per round and a maximum of $25,000 per company. Participants are required to attend small business workshops to help them prepare sound business plans.
“It was a learning experience, sitting down for classes, we had to go through different courses, and from there they assigned us an advisor from UTPA (SBDC), who were all excellent people,” said Rafael Pacheco Jr, co-owner of El Yaqui. “From the business plan to the presentations, it was all a learning experience, which I have never had in my time in business.”