LOWVILLE — A little over a year ago, Meghann and Brandon Hellinger stood in the cleaned-out but still empty, dark, wood-panelled bar in the old Bateman Hotel and said they would start their business their way, not the “normal” way.
They would keep it simple, do the work themselves as much as possible, make sure they had the money they needed “up front” and not get into debt.
With the help of about $6,700 through the Lewis County Microenterprise Grant Program administered by Lewis County Economic Development, the couple was able to do exactly that.
The Bateman Draft House opened to the public Memorial Day Weekend after a “soft opening” the weekend before for friends and family.
“A lot of people are willing to take out $100,000 loans (to start a business) and I’m not saying that’s bad, but the way that we chose to do things was to pay things off ahead of time and make sure we had the funds before we jumped into a project. So as of right now, we don’t have any outstanding debt,” Mrs. Hellinger said. “Thankfully the Microenterprise Grant picked up almost half of our total project costs (not including product). We were very fortunate for that.”
The Lewis County Industrial Development Agency applied for and received $200,000 for the Microenterprise Program through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal in December 2018 and was required to wrap up the program by December 2020 by distributing grants in amounts between $5,000 and $35,000 for equipment, machinery, furniture or fixtures amounting to less than 90% of the total project.
Business owners who won grants were required to contribute at least 10% of the money needed for the targeted purchases and participate in a 14-week Entrepreneurial Training Course given by the Small Business Development Center in Watertown.
Grant money can be used to reimburse owners for the cost of the course.
Winners in the first of two rounds of funding included the Tug Hill Artisan Coffee Roasters in Beaver Falls, which received $26,000 for a walk-in cooler, afterburner equipment and to develop an ordering app, and Osceola Ski & Sport, LLC, which ultimately received $34,500 for kitchen equipment and furniture for its lodge.
Three businesses received grants in the second round of funding last year.
Black River Valley Natural in Lyons Falls received $34,650 to purchase bulk storage tanks and a cream separator in order to add bottled skim, 1% and 2% milk to their production capabilities of high-quality dairy products including creamline milk, cheeses and butter.
Bodhi Kombucha, a sister company to Skewed Brewing, was granted $34,000 for a new canning line to be used by both companies at their brewing facility in Lowville.
Cummings Farms Creamline Milk will be pasteurized and bottled right at the farm in Turin, in part due to the $35,000 Microenterprise Grant it was awarded last year.
To be considered, businesses had to have fewer than five employees including the owner as long as the owner either meets low to moderate income guidelines, or if the business will create at least one “high quality” job for someone who meets the guidelines.
In Lewis County, businesses involved in tourism, value-added dairy processing and those interested in relocating to downtown Lowville were prioritized, although any business could apply.
The first $30,000 of the $200,000 fund was automatically earmarked by the state for administration of the program, according to IDA Executive Director Brittany B. Davis in a 2019 interview after the close of the first round of program funding.
The county has applied for another $200,000 grant to continue the Microenterprise Program and anticipates the announcement of award winners by mid-summer.