Annual competition awards $50,000 to local businesses

A version of this article was first published on Record-Bee.

The finals of Hands Up Lake County 2021 held at Konocti Vista Resort on Sunday where a crowd of over 100 people saw Catherine Ann Reese of Reese Ranch Retreat walk away with the $20,000 to prize during the gala event.

After winning the top prize, Reese said, “I feel amazing. I’m honored to be a part of this competition. It took a lot of effort to reach in deep to share my story.”

Don’t let challenges stop you, let them push you to do even better in all areas of life, including business. That is what I’ve done.

Prize money of $50,000 was earmarked for distribution to the top five finalists. Major sponsors included the Lodge at Blue Lakes, the City of Clearlake, Foods Etc., the City of Lakeport, and Lake County Tribal Health donated to make the prize money possible. Event sponsors included SMBC/Savings Bank of Mendocino County, First Community Credit Union, Law Office of Mary Heare Amodio, among many others.

Out of 50 applicants, five were selected for the finals: Reese, Ashley Ruth Garrigus of Wild Hope Bakery, Jennifer Marie Gayda of Bottle Rock Candle Studio in Cobb, Anahi Maria Silva of Party Ideas, Valeri Ann Stallings of Send Rover on Over/doggie daycare, training, boarding and grooming, and as an alternate, Brianna Elisabeth Thomas of Red Feather Leather.

Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) sent a video congratulating the finalists, speaking of how good Hands Up Lake County is for the local economy and promising to be at next year’s gala event, in person.

The five finalists took to the stage for presentations of their businesses, which included financial projects and what they would do with the prize money. After each presentation, judges asked the contestants questions.

All finalist spoke of plans for “paying it forward,” giving back to the community and other businesses.

Fifth place winner was Garrigus winning $4,000. Fourth place went to Gayda winning $6,000. Third place was Silva of Party winning $8,000. Second place was Stallings of Send winning $12,000.

Stallings also won the Fan Favorite Award and Brianna Elisabeth Thomas (alternate) of Red Feather Leather won the Founders Award.

Clearlake’s City Manager Alan Flora, gave closing remarks. He spoke about community involvement and that he hopes the public will investigate businesses who did not make the finals as they are already out there doing business. He mentioned last year’s first prize winner, Lam Printing, and how they’ve doubled their business since winning 1Team 1Dream.

The diminutive figure of Maryann Schmid, dressed elegantly in a short skirt and sparkly top, revealed that she and husband Peter have sold The Lodge at Blue Lakes to a family from San Jose. After handing over the microphone to Steele to read a letter from Chester Co, who plans to continue supporting Hands Up Lake County.

My retirement from The Lodge at Blue Lakes will mean that I’ll have more time to dedicate to 1Team 1Dream. We will have a bigger and better Hands Up Lake County 2022.

Bruno Sabatier, District 2 Supervisor, said, “The entrepreneurial spirit in Lake County is alive and obvious through this program. I’m inspired by what I saw and I hope other people with business ideas and dreams can be inspired as well.”

Steele said, “It is very humbling to hear the stories, the challenges, that these small businesses have endured and so rewarding that they want to be here. These business are going to bring to life the slogan ‘Shop Local.’ They’re bringing the choices, they’re bringing the services so that we can actually experience that vision of shopping local. That’s where we’re going, one small business at a time.”

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal.

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal,” Schmid said.

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