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Regional Small Business Forum Features BVEDC

BRENHAM, Texas - The Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation was proud to participate in the annual small business forum Tuesday, June 12 in Brenham.
BVEDC President/CEO Matt Prochaska presented a regional economic update to the gathering, which was hosted by the chambers of commerce for Washington County, Navasota-Grimes County and Burleson County.
Prochaska announced a commitment by economic development representatives from each of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments' counties for regular meetings to discuss options and opportunities for business attraction and expansion. BVEDC will participate in and assist with those talks, which are part of a growing effort to help the Brazos Valley better compete for business.
State Senator Lois Kolkhorst and State Representative Ben Leman were among the speakers at the event, which honored area small businesses for their successes.
Thanks to The Bryan/College Station Eagle for their coverage of the forum.

The following is a press release issued by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce following the June 12, 2018 event.
At the Small Business Forum hosted in Brenham today, six local businesses received an impressive distinction, having been selected as the “Small Business of the Year” for 2018.  The awards were given out in two categories: businesses with 1-25 employees and those with 26-100.  The Small Business Forum was co-hosted by the Brenham/Washington County Chamber, Burleson County Chamber and Navasota-Grimes County Chamber.
State Senator Lois Kolkhorst greeted everyone at the Forum when the awards presentation commenced.  She congratulated each award winner and thanked all attendees for their dedication to serving the community.
Newly sworn in State Representative Ben Leman also addressed the crowd and talked about his background with starting a small business and his appreciation for the sacrifices that small business owners make every day to meet payroll demands and grow their businesses.
For the Washington County awards, Chamber president Page Michel remarked that it was a difficult selection process, “because we are fortunate to have so many outstanding businesses in this community.”   She explained that both of this year’s winners “truly stand out for their commitment to excellence and growth in their industries and for providing their customers with amazing products and services.”  Bliss Candy Company and South Texas Tack are this year’s award winners.
The first award (business size 1-25) was presented to Bliss Candy Company. Sammy and Cynthia Timpa are the company owners and creators of Bliss Candy Company Fine Toffee. The business was started in the fall of 2006, but they have many more years of experience and a rich history.
Bliss Candy Company’s recipe came from Cynthia’s mother, who made toffee for every special occasion.  Cynthia grew up learning the secrets of this delectable treat. She spent countless hours and dollars, making and throwing away batches of toffee. After many years, she finally perfected the technique, and has even improved it.
Today Bliss Toffee is the perfect combination of 4 ingredients, impeccable timing and lots of creativity. Since Cynthia and Sammy started the company, sales have exceeded their expectations, and they have to work very hard to keep up with demand.
Since locating their business in Brenham, Cynthia and Sammy have been involved in the community and support several clubs and organizations with fundraising. They are also active with the Washington County Rotary Club, Unity Theatre, Washington on the Brazos and Camp For All.  They are members of Retail Confectioners International, and they volunteer with Be An Angel in Houston, helping children with special needs and hearing impaired children.
Once you get a taste of Bliss Toffee, you understand the incredible success they’ve had. They are located at 2307 S. Market Street in Brenham, and also sell amazing cupcakes. The store is charming and so are these two entrepreneurs.  You will enjoy the experience of shopping at Bliss, and then you will enjoy the memories made when eating their treats.
The second Small Business of the Year award (business size 26-100) was presented to South Texas Tack.  South Texas Tack, a western retail store, was founded in Brenham in 2003 by Steve Martin, with ties to over a century of ranching, working cattle, showing horses and farming.  It is known for the highest level of service, selection, and value for the western lifestyle.  When they opened, it was a Tack and Saddle store with leather goods, animal health products, ropes, and saddles. In 2010, they completed their first expansion, adding apparel, footwear and a boot department. Soon after that, cowboy hats were added. In 2016, South Texas Tack started a catalog company to service customers nationwide and online with southtexastack.com.
In early 2018, they launched a new company, LetsRope.com in order to service the roping community directly.  And they have now broken ground on their latest expansion which will include a much grander retail experience, restaurant and outdoor courtyard.
When asked what they are most proud of, the owners say it is the South Texas Tack team. Their team consists of 30 full-time and 3 part-time employees, and they are comprised of experienced participants and competitors involved in the western lifestyle and equine arena.  This combined experience in various disciplines gives them the knowledge to better serve customers world-wide.  They are also proud sponsors of the Washington County Fair, the AQHA Youth World Cup, Junior Nationals Finals Rodeo, Stock Horses of Texas, Big Loop Big Money, American Stock Horse Association, National Cutting Horse Association, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, and surrounding county fairs.
The two winners of the Burleson County Small Business of the Year awards were B&C Wine and Spirits and Slovacek’s Smokehouse.
B&C Wine and Spirits opened in August 2016.  It is a family-owned business serving the Caldwell and surrounding area with liquor, wine and beer. Plus they carry a large selection of additional products. Chamber board member Stu Chapman praised the business owners for being widely involved in the community and supportive of area clubs and organizations.
Slovacek’s Smokehouse has fans far and wide. Located in Snook, “Uncle” John Slovacek opened Slovacek Sausage Company in 1957.  Today, owner Tim Rabroker and his staff continue the business. The Chamber praised the business for its dedication to quality and service to the community.
The winners of the Navasota-Grimes County Small Business of the Year awards were Miller Insurance Agency and Camp Allen.
With 71 Years in business, Miller Insurance Agency provides protection to families and businesses against loss and service to customers. From their humble beginnings with Albert & Margie Miller starting the business in 1947, where Albert would put up signs on fence posts to market the agency, word of mouth referrals have always been the mainstay of their business.
Miller Insurance Agency supports just about every youth group in the area, including but not limited to Grimes County Little League, Navasota Mudcats swim team, Youth football leagues, After Prom at NHS, Navasota ISD Education Foundation, Navasota ISD Football, Cheer, Diamonettes, Basketball, Baseball, and on and on.
In an industry that deals with uncertainty of life, including weather claims, personal and business calamities, each of these events presents a hurdle to jump.  Miller’s Agency has been able to stay on top of them, all-the-while providing excellent customer service.
Camp Allen Conference and Retreat Center - Anyone who has visited Camp Allen can attest that it is a wonderful place for people and organizations to meet.  For all spiritual, social, corporate and educational events.  Owned by the Episcopal Church, their facility has brought great recognition to Grimes County as it has hosted many prominent visitors from around the world.  Another business that has been around for a while (45 years as an event space), it has adapted to a changing world by continuing to offer state of the art facilities with lighting, sound, projection, not to mention air conditioning!  But they have also stayed true to their mission and put children and faith-based focus at the forefront of their activities.
The Navosota-Grimes County Chamber wishes to congratulate the management and staff at Camp Allen as they are recognized as Grimes County’s 2018 Small Business of the Year.
During his presentation at today’s forum, Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation President/CEO Matt Prochaska announced to forum attendees that economic development representatives from each of the counties in the Brazos Valley Council of Governments have committed to regular meetings for discussions on the best ways to bring business to the Brazos Valley and help existing businesses expand. The BVEDC is committed to being a part of those talks spearheaded by the BVCOG. With the growth of business in Texas, there is a greater need to address regional competitiveness and the capturing of future economic opportunities. That will require active discussions to anticipate industry activities for our area.
Several other distinguished speakers were featured at this event including Senator Lois Kolkhorst; Christian Collins from U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady’s office; Russell Dempsey from Express Employment; Michelle Taylor from Employer Flexible; David Hagy from Central Texas Partners; and Johanna Fatheree of RE/MAX Advantage, who served as M.C. for the event.
Headline sponsors included Brenham National Bank, Citizens State Bank, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, and Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, plus there were a dozen exhibitors and table sponsors.
Another Small Business Forum will be held in June 2019, and nominations will be sought in the spring for next year’s Small Business of the Year awards.  See photos from today’s event on the Washington County Chamber’s social media page: facebook.com/washingtoncountychamber.
*Photo courtesy of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce