Above: Mitzi Sykes, economic development director, Dickenson County; Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel; Steven Baker, owner, The Bloom Farm; Geena Phipps, The Bloom Farm; and Tim Blankenbecler, director of the Small Business Development Center, Mountain Empire Community College.
A veteran of the coal and oil industries is trading in his energy career for an entrepreneurial venture in his Southwest Virginia hometown. Come spring Steven Baker’s commercial greenhouse selling flowers and ornamental and landscape plants will open in the Dickenson County community of Clintwood, a new business that is a recent recipient of a $10,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) seed capital matching grant.
The Bloom Farm, LLC was created by Baker in August. “I’ve worked in the coal industry and also in the oil field both at home and away from the region. I decided to return home when my grandmother got sick to help take care of her. A retired marketing and nursing teacher at Clintwood High School, she was nothing less than a true inspiration with her love and example of hard work,” said Baker.
“I’ve always wanted to start a business that would be beneficial for our region. Southwest Virginia, is a real treasure consumed by many beautiful homes, properties, and businesses that take pride in our mountains and natural beauty. After seeing my girlfriend and her aunt’s knowledge, hard work, and passion unfold with all the beautiful flowers they grow, the collaboration of a greenhouse idea came to life,” said Baker.
Baker worked with Tim Blankenbecler of the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College to prepare his business plan for The Bloom Farm and his application to the VCEDA seed capital matching grant program. The VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund is designed to assist VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees.
Dickenson County native Geena Phipps, 25, who is a plant vendor at Lowe’s, says her aunt, April Fleming, “taught me everything I know about plants and flowers,” and Geena will be helping Baker in the new business. He projects one full-time job and the business will be managed by Baker, Phipps and his family.
The business plans to use the VCEDA seed capital grant to help with the construction of a 24’x32’ main greenhouse, a shade house, supply area, a sales area and a mobile unit on 25 acres in Clintwood.
“We’re going to have a nice sales area where customers can buy plants and other items, some of our own pottery, potting soil and gardening items,” said Baker. He hopes to open by March or April, the first year with purchased plants and some that The Bloom Farm has grown. “Eventually we will be doing our own cloning and cuttings.”
“Agriculture and entrepreneurship are two of VCEDA’s targets, and the application from The Bloom Farm, LLC fit nicely into both these strategies,” said Jonathan Belcher, executive director/general counsel of VCEDA. “VCEDA is very glad to be able to help this new small business to get started in Dickenson County. One key to growing the economy of our area is to support the growth of new small businesses in our region, and that is what the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund is designed to help do.”