SUBMITTED By RUSS SEAGLE, SR.
David Nestler was recently awarded $10,000 in start-up capital after winning a business plan competition for area community college students. Nestler, owner of Tree of Life Woodworks, LLS, graduated this month from Haywood Community College’s professional woodworking program.
The business plan competition was sponsored by The Sequoyah Fund, Inc. and Cherokee Business Development in Cherokee, and it was funded by a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. The competition was open to students enrolled in degree programs at Haywood, Southwestern and Tri-County Community Colleges.
Students were required to seek technical assistance while working on their plans. Most students called on their instructors and the Small Business Centers at their respective colleges. Some took advantage of services provided by Western Carolina University’s Small Business & Technology Development Center in Cullowhee.
Business plans were reviewed by a committee, and each member read all seven plans that were submitted by the deadline. Each section of the plan was scored, and each plan could score a maximum of 360 points. “Mr. Nestler’s plan won with 283 points,” explained Sequoyah Fund Executive Director, Nell Leatherwood.
Nestler was guided by his entrepreneurship instructor, Dr. Michelle Choate, and Haywood Community College Small Business Center Director, Sharron Donnahoe. “I knew from working with David that he was capable of winning this competition. I’m extremely happy for him, because he’s worked so hard and certainly deserves this honor,” said Donnahoe.
Contest rules specified that students start and operate a business somewhere in the seven western counties of NC and be ready to begin operations within one year of receiving the award. Nestler’s business will be located in Sylva, and he’s already producing handcrafted, custom-designed furniture for homes and businesses. Tree of Life Woodworks specializes in using locally harvested and reclaimed wood. “This award will help me acquire some much needed equipment to help me increase production,” said Nestler.
“We’re excited for David, and we’re looking to him as an ambassador for this program as our first winner,” said Cherokee Preservation Foundation Executive Director, Susan Jenkins. “We’re hoping to eventually be able to offer a business plan competition at the high school level, as well.”
Anyone with questions concerning this or future business plan competitions can contact Russ Seagle, Sr. Loan Officer with The Sequoyah Fund at 828-497-8142. Samples of Nestler’s work can be viewed at www.tolwoodworks.com.
Russ is the senior loan officer and manager of client development for The Sequoyah Fund, Inc.