RIPE Publishing takes home top prize in Business Plan competition finale | Fort Worth Report


Eight businesses gave their final pitch before a panel of judges at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as part of the Fort Worth Business Plan Competition May 9.

The Fort Worth Business Plan Competition is an annual celebration of the city’s entrepreneurs and small businesses. This was the 13th year for the program. 

Twenty businesses completed six weeks of business development training and coaching before applying those skills to their own written plans. After the plans were judged, the top eight finalists each made a three-minute pitch to the judges, followed by a two-minute round of questions and answers. 

This year, the grand prize of $10,000 in cash was taken home by Megan Jackson and Tneisha Brown of RIPE Publishing House, a company focused on serving authors and the community more effectively and equitably including through youth programming. 

RIPE Publishing House also won the “Perfect Pitch Prize” audience popular vote, receiving a $500 credit for custom merchandise for their business courtesy of sponsor Printed Threads.

Second prize — a check for $6,000 — went to Shawna Murphy from StyleSmart VA. A client of TechFW, StyleSmart VA matches beauty industry professionals with trained virtual assistants to provide them with administrative support.

The third-place prize of $4,000 went to Dee Henry of Champion Strength & Conditioning, a boutique personal training studio that offers tailored fitness programs to improve its clients’ health, wellness and performance.

This year’s Fort Worth Business Plan Competition included businesses from nine of Fort Worth’s 10 council districts. Council members Michael Crain, Janette Martinez and Chris Nettles attended the event. 

The emcee for the evening was Lauren Kutschke of Salted Pages, the 2022 grand prize winner of the competition. A special introduction was provided by Shalonda Burnside of Lil Pop Gourmet Popcorn, last year’s grand prize winner.

As in previous years, the Fort Worth Business Plan Competition was organized by the city of Fort Worth’s Economic Development Department and sponsored by Frost Bank.

A variety of supporting partners also helped provide coaching and mentorship to the participating businesses, including TechFW, HSC Next, SCORE Fort Worth, Tarrant County Small Business Development Center, Accelerate Fort Worth Foundation and Foundations EDC.

The additional businesses that pitched during the finale were:

  • Brown Sugar Ice Cream Co., which specializes in organic, lactose-free frozen custard using local ingredients.
  • Ca’Maire LLC, a local hair salon that offers tailored solutions to all hair textures and types.
  • OnDa Spot Solutions, a company that provides commercial cleaning and disinfecting services to workplaces across the region.
  • Shaman Systems LLC, a business that designs and sells electronic components for personal electric vehicles like e-bikes.
  • Smackin Mac, a food truck that serves a variety of baked gourmet mac-and-cheese bowls with fresh ingredients.

La Pulga releases mezcal 

La Pulga Mezcal is joining the Fort Worth-based company’s line of tequilas. (Courtesy photo | La Pulga) 

One year ago, three local entrepreneurs launched La Pulga Tequila, a new spirit produced and bottled in Mexico, but born in Fort Worth. As the company celebrates its one-year anniversary, it has expanded its portfolio to include a new ultra-premium mezcal, La Pulga Mezcal.

Now available across North Texas — and soon throughout the state — La Pulga officials report the mezcal is crafted in San Luís Potosí, Mexico, from wild harvested 100% agave salmiana, imparting a distinct and flavorful taste and aroma of green chili, citrus and green olives. La Pulga Mezcal is a joven, or unaged mezcal.

“Our mission — and our passion — at La Pulga is to handcraft the very best, most unique spirits of their kind. That’s what we did with our La Pulga tequilas, and now with our extraordinary new mezcal,” said Sarah Castillo, one of La Pulga’s three founders. “This is not your usual smoky mezcal.”

La Pulga Mezcal honors time-honored production methods passed down through generations, including meticulous roasting of the agave piñas — the sweet and juicy heart of the plant — which are then crushed to separate the agave juice from the fibers before fermentation and distillation.

The brand takes its name from the “Pulga” outdoor market on University Drive where it enters Fort Worth’s Northside; it is one of the oldest open-air flea markets in the U.S. 

The brand was founded by Castillo, a Fort Worth restaurateur; Andrew de la Torre, a club owner and the operator of the Pulga market; and Stephen Slaughter, a local entrepreneur and real estate developer.

La Pulga Mezcal and La Pulga Tequila are available through Republic National Distributing Co. at bars and restaurants throughout the metroplex and other select Texas markets, at spirits retailers and online

La Pulga Mezcal marks the first release in the brand’s new “Alebrijes” series, which refers to the Mexican folk art images of mystical animals that adorn La Pulga bottles. The animal spirit on La Pulga Mezcal is a coyote, native to the area around the distillery in San Luís Potosí.

Hillwood refinances industrial building 

Hillwood refinanced the construction debt on a recently completed industrial building within the developer’s AllianceTexas master-planned development. 

JLL Capital Markets, the capital markets arm of JLL, a large commercial real estate services firm, arranged for the financing on behalf of Hillwood. 

The 1.2 million-square-foot property is fully leased to Southwire Co., one of the leading manufacturers of wire and cable based in Carrollton, Georgia.

The JLL Capital Markets team included Trey Morsbach, DJ Meagher, Ryan Pollack and Chad Lisbeth.

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Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at 

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