On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, more than 200 people gathered at the Wheeling Artisan Center to celebrate the return of Wheeling Heritage’s Show of Hands program. This community-supported crowdfunding event provides local entrepreneurs with a chance to win more than $4,000 to start or expand businesses that will have a positive impact on the community. This time around, DeSean James, owner of Backyard Escapes, took home the top prize.

During his pitch, the audience learned more about DeSean’s hope to expand his landscaping business by purchasing additional equipment. DeSean noted that he currently rents many pieces of landscaping equipment, which has significantly added to his operating expenses as he takes on more clients. With many folks tackling their own backyard cleanup projects this time of year, DeSean’s pitch easily won the crowd over – and likely garnered some new clients, too!

Aside from having a compelling business proposition, what made DeSean stand out was his stage presence and contagiously upbeat personality. During the question-and-answer portion of his presentation, he received several questions about the types of services he offered – each to which he enthusiastically responded with “look, I got you!” He explained that he has been working in landscaping since he was 16 years old, which is why he can confidently provide such a wide range of services.

The Wheeling Heritage Media Team spoke with DeSean just moments after learning that he was the night’s big winner. Here’s what he said to say:

Show of Hands Winner: DeSean James
Wheeling Heritage Media spoke with DeSean James, owner of Backyard Escapes, just moments after winning more than $4,000 through Show of Hands.

The other three participants were Art Burnside, owner of Art’s Old Town Bicycle Repair; Anton Drake, owner of Lucky Candies 2; and Thomas Gilson, owner of the Cheese Melt Bar and Grill. Each shared their plans for growing their business, which also focused on securing equipment that would enhance their operations. While they might not have left with a big check, they certainly were able to reap the benefits of sharing their passion with a captive audience and, hopefully, get more new customers coming through their doors. Part of the joy of community-centered events like Show of Hands is that it provides a platform for people to learn about different up-and-coming businesses in Wheeling. 

The next Show of Hands is scheduled for Wednesday, June 29 at 6 p.m. at the Wheeling Artisan Center. Learn more about this event at wheelingheritage.org/show-of-hands/

  • Art Burnside, owner of Art's Old Town Bicycle Repair

• Alex Panas is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband where they raise four cats and four spunky backyard chickens.


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