Viva Fit Kitchen owner pitching to judges

Top 2021 REV winners: where are they now?

October 28, 2022

With next week’s REV event, we wanted to take a trip down memory lane with last year’s winners. Read our follow up conversations with our two top 2021 business recipients to see where they are now. Both female business owners will be leaving their current day jobs and now take on their start-up businesses full-time!

Moreover, be sure to get your tickets to REV 2022 on Tuesday, November 1 from 4-7pm at the Hoff Family Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center in Council Bluffs, here! Come listen to a live pitch competition, enjoy networking and appetizers and hear from our keynote speaker, Drew Harden on Powerful Ways to Persevere with Passion.

REV 2021 Top Winner: $12,000, Founder and Lead Chef Alejandra Valdez

What was the REV experience like?

 It was a game changer! Before REV I didn't feel like I had my financial documents in order. Going through the process really forced me to create systems and analyze my finances. I was lucky enough to have resources from IWCC Small Business Development Center and Advance Southwest Iowa to help me through the process. I had wonderful people like TS Bank and other partners as well that were there to answer any questions. Overall I am honestly so blessed to have been through the process. I learned so much on financial side and I learned to put my idea into a pitch to collectively summarize my journey, my story, and my why into a clear vision.

How did this funding help your business specifically?

I needed funding for vending machines, but did not realize how much more I had to grow before getting there. These funds really helped with my staffing, marketing and investing into our growth. We still have plans of growing our business into vending retailers, and although it has been taking a little longer than I thought, we will be better positioned and prepared for when the time does come.

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What are some new things that are happening in your business now?

We have started catering, launched merchandise, and launched a brand ambassadors program that really has helped get our name out in the nutrition world. We have started doing more pop ups to get visibility out there as well! We are starting a rotating menu in November as well to try it out!

How has this last year affected your business and how can others help?

This year started out great, record sales actually! In June, our sales started to slow down a bit. We pivoted by launching catering/event packs as well as taking on more pop up, and launching merchandise to try to make up for some loss of income. We continue to try to get our name out here daily with marketing. Others can help Viva Fit by using our meal prep service, using us for catering, or if interested in being a retail whole partner by contacting us!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I am so appreciative for everyone who has supported me along with my brand and my vision. We have such a big mission ahead, and with it comes so much work. REV is an amazing opportunity for any entrepreneur; our community is truly blessed to have this opportunity. One of my dreams is to be able to do something similar to what REV is doing and provide an entrepreneur funds to help their dream get ahead. For now until more funds come, I have co-founded an entrepreneur network, Embolden, to bring resources and community together.

Building a business is the hardest thing I have ever done, but when you come from a place where you understand why you are doing them it's called purpose, and when you find purpose the hard doesn't even matter anymore. You are willing to do the work anyways! The REV experience really gave me a kick start to start putting myself out there, putting a face behind my brand, sharing my story and that alone has been a game changer. Learn more at https://www.vivafitkitchen.com/.

REV 2021 Winner: $3,000, Owner Alysia Hess

What was the REV experience like? 

Fast and furious! I wasn’t sure I wanted to apply but was encouraged to by multiple people. I got my application in on the last day, just in time. When I found out I was selected to pitch, I was shocked. I attended a workshop put on by Advance Southwest Iowa and IWCC Small Business Development Center to help steer my presentation goals. The actual pitch made me a little nervous, but once I started talking about my passion, it was just natural.

How did this funding help your business specifically?

It helped me fund renovations of my building. It has turned out beautifully!

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What are some new things that are happening in your business now? 

Getting ready to open full time next January! Very excited!

How has this last year effected your business and how can others help?

It has been a great learning experience running this as a side business to my full-time job at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo. It allowed me to get a feel for things while still having financial security. I am leaving my full-time job at the zoo in a couple months and looking forward to jumping into The Occasional Collective full-time next year. Word of mouth about the shop is the greatest asset!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I cannot thank all of the organizations involved in the advancement of small business in southwest Iowa enough. Each one has been a piece of this puzzle and it wouldn’t have completed these steps of success without them. Learn more at https://www.theoccasionalcollectiveia.com/.

At TS Bank, we IGNITE PROSPERITY® by helping our clients do more with their money. Whether it’s saving a little extra cash each month or accomplishing a long-term strategy, our goal is to help you transform your financial life. Call and schedule an appointment today, one of our team members would love to help you do more with your money at TS Bank. TS Bank has eight locations in central and southwest Iowa. For more information, visit tsbank.com or call 844-487-3030. #igniteprosperity