Pitch Panel Press Release

Five Area Businesses Win $5,000 Awards at MREI Pitch Panel.

Five Richmond-area businesses each won $5,000 in the Metro Richmond Exports Initiative’s Pitch Panel competition at the group’s annual meeting on Thursday, January 25.

The “Shark Tank”-style contest provided 10 small- and medium-sized local businesses the opportunity to pitch their export plans to a panel of judges to vie for one of five awards to help them initiate or increase their export business. The awards were underwritten by JPMorgan Chase.

The winners are:

  • Sandrog International Commerce, LLC: A reseller of laboratory and medical equipment and supplies;
  • Shoe Crazy Wine: Private label wine and distribution;
  • Baby Change-N-Go: Produces a patented portable diaper changing station;
  • Spectra Quest Inc.: Provides a turn-key system for training and diagnostics in industrial maintenance and workforce enhancement; and
  • Detectament, Ltd.: Manufactures detectable food safety, office and professional cleaning products.

“JPMorgan Chase is pleased to work with the Metro Richmond Exports Initiative in their effort to generate international opportunities for the local business community,” said Nick Klym, Virginia Market Executive. “The exporting of Richmond-produced goods and services is a key driver of economic growth for the region. This event identified a group of companies that can grow their business internationally and we are happy to support them with this initiative. “

The Metro Richmond Exports Initiative—a nonprofit program that helps Central Virginia businesses export their goods and services—is a partnership of the Greater Richmond Partnership, Virginia’s Gateway Region Economic Development Organization, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs’ Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, with the support of JPMorgan Chase and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Judging the panel were Klym, Van Wood of the VCU School of Business, John Vivadelli of Agilquest, Brett Vassey of the Virginia Manufacturing Association, and Bill Houck of the Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C. To prepare the applicants, the initiative offered a “pitch panel” tutorial the previous week with several government and business experts to help contenders hone descriptions of their product or services.

Participants also heard an update about the initiative’s successes over the past year. A survey of businesses conducted by the Wilder School in the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area shows that 9.4 percent of businesses across all industry sectors exported in 2016. Additionally, businesses that export in the Richmond MSA are three times more likely to export goods than services.

The top countries Richmond-area businesses export to include Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Iraq and Australia. Just over 25 percent of Richmond businesses are interested in export assistance.

“We had an outstanding group of applicants and a stellar group of judges,” said Greg Wingfield of the Wilder School. “This competition sought to let local businesses showcase their goods and services and share with them the opportunities that exist to export.”

Gwen Hurt of Shoe Crazy Wine

Chesterfield woman creates Shoe Crazy Wine to sell her own brand of blended wines

November 5, 2017 – By John Reid Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch

A personal calamity put Gwen Hurt on the path to becoming an entrepreneur.

Hurt, a South Carolina native, had a successful 15-year career working in information technology, which included living in Hong Kong for seven years. In 2013, however, she was laid off as part of a corporate restructuring.

“Normally, that is not such a big deal, in the IT world,” Hurt said. Given the demand for IT professionals, “you can just look for another position.”


$255,000 Federal Grant for Virginia Intl Trade

Governor McAuliffe Announces $255,000 Federal Grant to Support International Trade Program in Virginia
~State Trade and Export Promotion program increases exports for small businesses in the Commonwealth~

October 12, 2017 – RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Virginia has received $255,000 in grant funding to support the Commonwealth’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Program. The STEP program, funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, is designed to increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to raise the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting. This year’s grant will be administered by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s International Trade Division.


MREI launches new website

Metro Richmond Exports Initiative launches new website

September 19, 2017 – RICHMOND, Virginia – The Metro Richmond Exports Initiative launched its new website,, to provide small- and medium-sized business owners and managers in the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area with easy-to-find information on export-related topics.

“We want to see more local businesses export or increase their export sales. By making it easy to find resources and advice on the new website, we aim to take some of the mystery out of the exporting process,” said Grace Festa, MREI’s program coordinator at the Greater Richmond Partnership. (more…)

UK Export Partnership for Hardywood

~New international sales opportunity for Hardywood Park results from European trade, marketing missions; assistance from Virginia agricultural trade office~

June 29, 2017 LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced new export sales and a new distribution partnership for Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, while on his trade and marketing mission to Europe. The partnership is with American Craft Beer Company, a UK-based representative of craft breweries from the United States. Today is the first day Hardywood Park beer is available for sale in the United Kingdom and the Governor attended a launch event at a brewpub owned by Scottish-based brewery BrewDog. (more…)