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Meeka Fellows reacts with her husband Mike as their "Selah's Acres RV Park and Resort Development" business proposal wins the Singing River Launch Tank at the Cook Museum of Natural Science in Decatur on Tuesday. [JERONIMO NISA/DECATUR DAILY]

Madison couple wins Singing River Launch Tank competition

Next Step Farms in Harvest places second

Mike and Meeka Fellows of Madison won an area entrepreneurial competition Tuesday by pitching an idea for an RV park that was inspired by their own experiences purchasing and living in a recreational vehicle with their four kids.

The RV transformed the Fellows family’s life.

“We were not in front of the TV; we were doing things. So, we started to see an improvement in the family dynamic,” Meeka said. “We were like, what else can we do?”

The answer was develop a plan for “Selah’s Acres RV Park and Resort Development,” and that concept helped them finish first out of nine finalists in the Singing River Trail Launch Tank competition modeled after television’s “Shark Tank.” The Madison couple plans to use their $5,000 winnings to make their RV park a reality, possibly in northern Madison County.

“We want Huntsville or Decatur; we want Alabama to feel what we felt every time we went to one of the RV parks,” Meeka said.

She explained that RV communities are made up of kind and generous people. The Fellowses came up with the idea of establishing an RV park about two years ago. They hope to include a pool, campground, dog run area and tiny homes.

Seven judges heard pitches from the entrepreneurial finalists in the event attended by about 224 people at the Cook Museum of Natural Science in Decatur.

Other entrepreneurs pitched ideas for a social commerce platform, a tent-making company that would provide 16-foot tents for luxurious camping, and a trail planning and building organization. The competition awarded $24,000 among the finalists.

The second place finalist in the competition is a farm in Harvest created to teach those with special needs to perform tasks like cooking. Started by retired special education teacher Robin Kramer, Next Step Farms is a new non-profit that will provide a day program in a farm-style setting for adults ages 18 and up. It was recently featured in the Nov. issue of Madison Living Magazine (www.madisonlivingmagazine.com).

I am very thankful to the Singing River Trail Launch Tank for the opportunity to share the vision of Next Step Farms,” Kramer said. Next Step was awarded $4,000 to help in the development of their program.

John Joseph, executive director of the Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center, is co-chair of the regional entrepreneurship effort for Launch 2035, the Launch Tank sponsor. He was pleased with the turnout.

“We were, I wouldn’t say surprised because we saw the attendance, but we didn’t expect this kind of turnout. Someone just told me in Birmingham they’ve been doing something like this for years and year four they had 50 people,” Joseph said.

Joseph said to have more than 200 people in the program’s first year is encouraging. Joseph said they hope to make it an annual event.

There were 42 entrepreneur applicants from eight north Alabama counties who were narrowed down to nine finalists by judges across the region, Joseph said. For-profit ventures and nonprofit organizations were able to apply. The only requirement was residency in one of the counties. The process started eight months ago, Joseph said.

The Singing River Trail is also a part of Launch 2035, which is a partnership of the 10 northern-most Alabama counties and is focused on keeping the region prosperous into the future.

John Kvach, executive director of SRT, said the trail is currently planned to be in eight counties, including parts of the city of Madison. You can learn more about it at www.singingrivertrail.com.

From The Decatur Daily

Robin Kramer explains her vision for Next Step Farms to the panel of judges at the Singing River Trail Launch Tank competition.

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