Alliance Announces 2016 Business Expansion Competition Winners

In July, the Transylvania Economic Alliance launched the 2016 Business Expansion Competition, which encouraged local businesses in Transylvania County, the City of Brevard and Town of Rosman to apply for grant funding totaling $25,000 and provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

The first place grant award was $15,000; the second place grant award was $10,000.

According to Alliance Board Chairman Mark Tooley, hosting the competition enabled local businesses to consider and craft formal plans for growth, while connecting the Alliance with competing businesses to provide financial support, guidance and expansion services.

“Helping them,” Tooley said, “is our primary role.”

“I am excited to see this money enable small businesses to succeed,” Tooley said.  “The two winners are very different from one another, but represent the types of creative services and local goods that Transylvania County is proud to be home to.”

Following an application period and final presentations to a selection committee comprised of Alliance staff and board members, as well as representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Heart of Brevard, two local businesses received funding.

First place ($15,000 grant): Real Digital Productions

Real Digital Productions is a video production company owned by Heath Cowart and Melinda Hendershott. The production team specializes in brand videos for commercial enterprises, event video production, commercial photography and aerial media. Based in Brevard, the company has grown to five employees working in Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina.

Business Expansion Competition grant dollars will help RDP expand to a larger office space, add a studio for in-house production services, upgrade equipment, reintroduce drone media, and increase employment.

According to Cowart, winning the competition enables RDP to grow their drone media services, increasing visibility for other Transylvania County businesses and the community.

“The Alliance set the incentive for a business like ours to thoroughly review our plans for growth,” Cowart said. “Creating an actionable expansion plan committed and motivated us to create opportunities for continued growth. We’re thrilled to continue down this journey with the help of the Alliance.”

“We love living in Transylvania County and our goal is to continue growing and expanding our business here,” Hendershott said.

Second Place ($10,000 grant): Bee, Honey & Hive

Bee, Honey & Hive began in 2008 when Devin Gentry and Lindsay Green purchased one hive and equipment for beekeeping. Together, the Brevard-based couple possesses a combined 16 years of beekeeping experience – resulting in a growing company committed to producing high quality local honey for retail and wholesale.

Today, much of the company’s work is done at a few colony sites in the county and at the kitchen table of their personal home. At the table, Green works to package honey for sale and hand stamp logos on tags.

Business Expansion Competition grant dollars will go towards the purchase of specialized equipment needed to manage current bee colonies and the continued development of processing and packaging systems to boost sales.

According to Gentry and Green, Bee, Honey & Hive’s success relies on the support of the local community and weekly Farmer’s Market sales. Additional support comes from area businesses and restaurants, such as Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Jaime’s Creole Brasserie, which have featured the honey on their menus.

“Honey is a by-product of the partnerships we’ve made,” Gentry said.


The Alliance would like to thank the Transylvania County Planning and Community Development Department for its efforts to help secure the ARC grant. Additionally, the Alliance would like to thank the following organizations for their expertise and local economic development guidance:

Blue Ridge Community College Small Business Center
Brevard-Transylvania Chamber of Commerce
City of Brevard
Heart of Brevard
Transylvania County
Town of Rosman
Tourism Development Authority

The Transylvania Economic Alliance is a 501(c)(3) organization that aims to lead responsible economic development by engaging the private and public sectors to develop community assets that are needed to maximize opportunities for investment and quality job creation. For more information about the Alliance, please visit or contact Alliance Director of Marketing and Communications Caitie Forde-Smith at or (828) 393-4130.


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