By Debbie Adams
Over 100 entrepreneurs signed up for this year’s GAUNTLET Business Program and Competition. Unique among them is Judah “Judah Bug” Clements, the youngest participant ever.
The GAUNTLET provides opportunities “for innovative entrepreneurs looking to start small businesses or for existing businesses looking to rebuild or expand.” A 10-week session of business classes is followed by a competition for approximately $300,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.
Training sessions focus on business topics such as accounting, business management, financing, organizational skills, research, time management, customer acquisition, budget and cash flow, legal structure, manufacturing, E-commerce, web development, business location, marketing, product and/or service development, technology, and business plan development.
Sounds a little complicated for a young man, but Judah established his Judah Bug Lemonade business last year when he was just 6 years old. He is following in the entrepreneurial footsteps of his father Philip and his company, The Foundry, who were participants and award winners in the 2019 GAUNTLET program.
“Judah got to see me go through the GAUNTLET and was at the awards ceremony,” said Philip Clements. “He has a general idea of what the GAUNTLET is about and signed up so that he could grow his business.”
With his father’s assistance, Judah went through the business development process last year to get Judah Bug Lemonade off the ground, ordering samples of lemonade mix from vendors to make a choice on which brand to use in his lemonade, creating a website and Facebook page, designing the branding, and even negotiating with the lemonade distributors they chose to enable him to purchase fewer packets than their standard bulk quantity.
“For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed being silly and creative,” Judah explains. “I love coming up with new ideas and building things with my dad. Cardboard airplanes, wrestling rings, and cool skateboards for my Lego guys are just a few of our accomplishments. It is fun to create and we love spending time working on projects.
“A couple of years ago, we pulled over after being flagged down by a group of neighborhood kids. They were selling lemonade and me and my dad love lemonade. It was so cool to see what they were doing. They were all working together and having a blast,” he said.
“The next spring, I watched as middle school students played soccer across the street from our home and thought how cool it would be to make a lemonade stand so the fans would have something to drink while they cheered for the games,” Judah said. “My dad promised we would create a lemonade stand–and then the pandemic happened. But I don’t give up that easily! So, we started JudahBug.com, an online lemonade stand that also supports Angels of Assisi.”
“I love to help people and animals. Starting this business allows me to express myself creatively and to partner in supporting a cause,” said Judah, nicknamed “Judah Bug” by his family.
Last summer, after a modest grand opening at his home, he raised over $1,000 for Angels of Assisi.
In September, Judah officially started the business, JPC Enterprises, LLC, and opened his own bank account.
In October 2020, he and his parents set up his lemonade stand at the Vinton Fall Festival, where he sold bottled lemonade, lemonade mix, and T-shirts.
Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, a businessman himself, congratulated Judah on his new business, “You saw a need and came up with your own innovative idea.”
“After the Fall Festival, we ended up having to focus our time more on school so Judah did not get to work on the business as much as he would have liked,” Philip Clements says. “After the slow fall we wanted to be really focused going into 2021 and the Gauntlet was a perfect opportunity.”
In December, Judah interviewed and hired Chelsey Blake as director of Operations and Marketing for Judah Bug and was accepted into the GAUNTLET Business Program and Competition for 2021.
“Chelsey was recommended to us,” Philip said. “When Judah was considering bringing someone on to help, she seemed like a good candidate. He met with her on Zoom and told her his story and asked her questions. Chelsey is amazing! She is highly educated and talented. We are so so, so lucky to have her on the team.”
The GAUNTLET is now in its seventh year with entrepreneurs from around the region. Due to the pandemic, classes are being held virtually.
Though Judah will attend some of the virtual classes, he won’t directly participate in the full extent of all of the GAUNTLET program; instead, Blake will represent the Judah Bug brand. He does, however, plan to pitch for Judah Bug alongside her at the end of the course in the final competition.
According to his dad, Judah has shown up to the first three 2021 GAUNTLET virtual classes and “hung out for the first 15-30 minutes.”
“He loves to drop into the individual tables and talk with people,” Philip said. “He also loves messaging the people he knows–it is hilarious. He isn’t overwhelmed by it all, a little shy at points, but very natural for him to be in the conversations.”
“After our main session each week, we break up into groups,” Blake notes. “Our table host allows each member of the table an opportunity to practice our elevator pitch [peppy three-minute presentations summing up their business]. Then we discuss the homework from the week. So far, we have mostly worked on our business plan and preliminary research. We’ve also been working on our SWOT analysis to process through the strengths and weaknesses of our business model. Our breakout sessions have also been a great time to meet other entrepreneurs/business owners in our region since our tables change from week to week.”
“Judah’s real engagement with the GAUNTLET will be through Chelsey,” Philip said. “She will be bringing the conversation to him each week and discussing the topics from the program. Together they will make decisions on what needs to be done next. In the end Judah hopes to further define his mission and vision for the company and to chart a course for 2021. He wants to develop awareness of his brand, his cause, and increase his impact to both animals and young people who want to start businesses.”
Next month Judah will be meeting with a group of elementary students to discuss his business and how they can start one themselves.
“Judah is still very excited about selling his lemonade and supporting Angels of Assisi with a portion of his profits,” said Blake. “As of now, Judah’s product line includes bottled lemonade, powdered drink mix, and branded T-shirts. As he gains knowledge through the GAUNTLET, it will be awesome to see how he chooses to grow or change his business model and product line.”
“Judah Clements with Judah Bug Lemonade is the youngest participant we’ve had in the GAUNTLET and we are thrilled to have him join the tribe!” said Shannon Dominguez, director of Business Development for The Advancement Foundation (TAF) and GAUNTLET facilitator. “He is setting a precedent for other young entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to the GAUNTLET Program, too! The minds of our youth are our future. We want to support and foster their ideas by providing them with the tools, resources, and support they need to witness the creations of their imagination come to life.”
“We are so proud to have Judah as a participant in the GAUNTLET,” said Annette Patterson, founder and CEO of TAF and the GAUNTLET. “The truth is entrepreneurial mindset is the most important skill for the future of work. Entrepreneurial mindset includes recognition of opportunity, critical problem-solving and communication. Whether Judah works for himself or for someone else in the future, these will be the skills that separate good from great!”