An Olympia entrepreneurial venture won first prize in a Business Plan Competition organized by VIBE, the Veterans Incubator for Better Entrepreneurship at University of Washington Tacoma. 

And the prospect of that $25,000 cash award has already allowed Tart Hard Cider to hire its first employee, jump-starting its launch by a year, according to partners Nicholas Timm and Zoe Van Schyndel. Timm is an Air Force veteran and his co-entrepreneur, Van Schyndel, served in the Army prior to joining the finance faculty at The Evergreen State College.

Tart Hard Cider is a commercial cidery that produces a hard cider product targeted to the artisanal market. It is distinguished by significantly less sugar and no “back-sweetening.” Distribution plans are focused on kegs, rather than bottles, with a focus on environmental sustainability.

The win also brings up to $25,000 in consulting services for the start-up from local law firms, accountants and commercial real estate advisers. 

Runner-up in the VIBE competition was We Make Dough, a small manufacturer of edible cookie dough, earning $5,000 and Oli Fitness, a system of services for the personal fitness/weight training market, gained $2,000.

Tacoma’s Dimmer Family Foundation funded the prizes for this first annual competition. Thomas Kuljam is director of the VIBE center at UWT, a project created by the late Chancellor Deborah Friedman.