RDA Announces 2022 Dream Launch Award Recipients

By: Kirsten Aherron
RDA Announces 2022 Dream Launch Award Recipients

DANVILLE, VA — Thursday, May 12, 2022 

The River District Association (RDA) has awarded six new businesses more than $140K in RDA Dream Launch Grants to open or expand their brick-and-mortar businesses in the River District, and an additional $17,500 in a new grant opportunity, Catalyst Grants, to assist businesses in developing new business ideas.

The River District Association Dream Launch Program is a multi-phase entrepreneurship program; the first phase, the Dream Launch Bootcamp, consists of six classes that teach participants a full slate of skills and information that business owners need. The annual Bootcamp is free for anyone to attend. This year, the program began offering an additional 7th class specifically for food and beverage businesses.  During the second phase of the Dream Launch Program, participants that complete the entire series and wish to open a brick-and-mortar business in the downtown River District area are eligible to pitch for Dream Launch grant funding.  In addition, thanks to partnerships and collaboration building, Dream Launch Bootcamp participants are also eligible to elect to pitch for funding in the Danville-Pittsylvania Rev-Up with the Chamber of Commerce.

Dream Launch, now finishing the 4th year of the program, saw registration of 91 for Dream Launch Bootcamp classes; 80 participants attended at least one class; 50 completed all 6 classes to earn a Certificate of Completion; and 9 business plans were pitched to judges in the Dream Launch Pitch Competition in April.  

The strength of the Dream Launch program has offered participants an opportunity to overcome the hurdle of access to capital for start-up businesses thanks to relationships with Movement Bank and American National Bank.  Both institutions have agreed to waive their 2-year business history requirement to apply for lines of credit.  Movement Bank also participated as a judge at the Dream Launch Pitch Competition and chose two business plans to receive $2.5K grants. 


Of the nine businesses that pitched, six were awarded 2022 RDA Dream Launch Pitch funding. Existing Business that received funding to expand:

  • The Brick Running & Tri Store – Owner Adam Jones - $25K
  • Urban Fitness, LLC – Owner Marvin Ken Jones - $13,200
  • The Cosmetic Art Store – Owner Sebastian Steele - $25K

New Businesses that will locate in the River District:

  • Bliss Hair & Nail Studio – Owner Gabriela Blair - $28K
  • Bubble Aquatics & Exotics – Owner Ashlyn Tickle - $25K (Conditional Grant Award)
  • Temptations Gourmet – Owner Carnesha Fuller - $24K + $2.5K grant from Movement Bank

The three other businesses who pitched will receive support from RDA in a capacity other than a Dream Launch Grant, including the new Catalyst Grant:

  • Uncle Al’s LLC Hotdogs and Ice Cream – Owner Allen Plummer – $12.5K Catalyst Grant Award + $2.5K grant from Movement Bank. 
  • Gemz by Jada – Owner Jada Jones - $5K Catalyst Grant
  • The Wellness and Beauty Center – Owner Joann Pyles - $5K Façade Improvement Grant. 

“We are thrilled with the results of our fourth year of the Dream Launch program” said Diana Schwartz, Executive Director of the River District Association, “Not only do we have a toolbox of programs and services for every stage of entrepreneurship, but we are breaking down the barrier of access to capital for start-up businesses in our Region.  It is through collaboration and partnerships that we can continue to grow our reputation as a great place to start your business”.

Funding for the 2022 RDA Dream Launch program was made possible by the City of Danville, the Dan River Region Entrepreneur Ecosystem (funded by the Danville Regional Foundation), Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and a $90,000 grant from the Community Business Launch Program.    Additional community partners in the RDA Dream Launch initiative include the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC), The Launch Place, Danville Pittsylvania Chamber of Commerce, American National Bank, Movement Bank, and many volunteer instructors, judges, and mentors throughout the Dan River region that make the program possible.

The 5th year of the program, the 2023 RDA Dream Launch, will open for registration in fall of 2022 and looks forward to expanding even more pitch opportunities to additional areas of the region.


The River District Association was organized in 1999 as the Downtown Danville Association. In May 2015, the organization was renamed the River District Association to complement the City’s River District brand and is an accredited Virginia and National Main Street Community. The office is located at 208 N Union St, Danville VA.