BUILD Bartlesville Innovative Ideas Competition Awards $6,800 to Local Couple

A Bartlesville couple has won the BUILD Bartlesville Innovative Ideas competition with their business plan to manufacture artisan goat cheese as part of the rapidly growing gourmet local food movement.

Kevin and Laurel Thompson, who recently moved to Bartlesville from Asheville, N.C., will manufacture artisan goat cheese under the Double Creek Farm brand at a location south of Bartlesville.

The BUILD Bartlesville competition was an initiative of the Rogers State University Innovation Center Board. Through its Business Solutions Committee, the Innovation Center requested proposals and offered prize money for early stage innovative ideas, to produce new startups or expand existing small businesses into new areas. The Thompsons won $6,800 in prize money to put toward equipment purchases for the artisan goat cheese manufacturing process.

“The goats are cute and all, but our interest is the business potential” said David Wood, president of the Bartlesville Development Corporation and a competition judge. “The Thompsons are converting $18 of raw material into $200 of gourmet product. That is solid, value-added manufacturing.”

The Thompsons’ story began with the purchase of their first goat, Julie, in N.C. The couple said they were immediately hooked on the idea of goat farming. They booked an internship with Blue Ledge Farms in Leicester, Vt., and spent the summer milking 80 goats, twice a day. They worked in the cheese house, learned about the equipment and processes and fell in love with goat cheese.

After going through their experience at Blue Ledge Farms and now winning the BUILD Bartlesville grant, the Thompsons said they are more excited than ever.

“We aim to provide fresh, delicious artisan cheese and pasture eggs. We believe in pure, healthy food from happy, healthy animals. We trust that customers will taste the difference,” Kevin Thompson said. “We are proud to add our momentum to the local food movement, and we feel honored to be awarded BUILD Bartlesville grant funds in support of our goal.”

The BUILD Bartlesville program mission is to promote the entrepreneurial spirit of small business startups and the expansion of existing small business in the Bartlesville area. One specific goal is to bring new revenue to the community by encouraging businesses that sell products beyond the Bartlesville area.

The Thompsons moved back to Bartlesville and settled on 100 acres of family property to begin building their goat farm. With the proceeds from the BUILD Bartlesville competition, the couple plans to purchase Grade A dairy equipment and hopes to begin selling goat cheese and providing free tours at Double Creek Farms in March 2013.

“Startup businesses are generally risky,” said Dr. Ray Brown, RSU vice president for economic and community development. “However, adequate research and preparation greatly increases the likelihood of a successful business. Kevin and Laurel have spent the time and effort to learn industry trends, evaluate their market and acquire knowledge relative to their prospective business through on the job training. They have developed an excellent plan for creating a profitable business.”

The BUILD Bartlesville competition kicked off in November 2011 with a call for proposals for innovative ideas. By mid-January, seven intent-to-compete forms were received, which resulted in two finalists. The two finalists participated in a coaching process that culminated with oral presentations to the competition judges.

The BUILD Bartlesville competition was made possible through the financial and promotional support of 66 Federal Credit Union, Armstrong Bank, Arvest Bank, BancFirst, Bartlesville Development Corporation, The Strategy Center, RCB Bank and the Rogers State University Innovation Center.

For more information, contact Brown at 918-343-7533.