A Recap of our First Signature Event of 2023

Last month, we hosted the first of our three signature events in 2023: The Black History Month Pitch Competition.  

The BHM Pitch competition followed our typical format: three startups and three small businesses pitch their business within 60 seconds to a panel of traditional and non-traditional lenders.  

Among the Vermont Slauson team, our Executive Vice President Libby Williams acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event, while Adrian Veliz, Senior BusinessSource Programs Manager, also delivered opening comments. Jonathan Kinnard, one of our Business Coaches, also represented VSEDC CDFI on the judging panel. 

Our Honorees

VSEDC honored three pillars of the community in Los Angeles:  

Kiesha Nix, Vice President of Charitable Affairs for the Los Angeles Lakers, and ‘one of the most powerful women in the sport of philanthropy,’ according to Sports Illustrated Magazine.  

Akil West, Founder of Sole Folks and Sole Folks Art Lab and Gallery, based in the famed Leimert Park. West designed the retail co-op and community space with Black creatives in mind.  

Heather Hutt, Councilwoman for L.A.’s Tenth District. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Hutt is the first woman in history and the first Black woman to be appointed as a voting member for the district. 

Our Judging Criteria

We whittled down a pool of about 40 applicants for the BHM Pitch Competition to our presenting group of six. At the BHM Pitch Competition, everyone went home a winner, with all presenting companies receiving a cash prize furnished by our generous sponsors.  

The pitch competitors were judged on the following:  

  • How well they tell their story   
  • Their Value Proposition   
  • How well they know their market   
  • Whether they made a clear ask 
  • Did they close strong? 

Everyone is a Winner at the BHM Pitch Competition!

Pitch Competitors and Lenders

Start Up Winners:  

First Place: Emily Woodman-Nance of At Their Side, LLC. with an award of $1,500. 

Second Place: Courtney Lockridge of Shaped Secretz and Body Sculpting. Lockridge also won Audience Choice Award so she exited the competition with an award totaling $1,500.  

Third Place: Quanda King, of Paint Noir, LLC. with an award of $500.  

Small Business Winners:  

First Place: Candace Walker of Generation Connect, with an award of $1,500. 

Second Place: TK Trinidad of Center In, with an award of $1,000. 

Third Place: Synovia Jones of Nobe’s P.B Foods, with an award of $500.  

We even held a lightning round of pitches for two runner-up businesses who applied to the event: Barika Phillips-Bell of B3 Media Solutions and Mercedes Jenkins-Carter, owner of My B.B.B. (Black Beauty Box). Both runner-up businesses pitched to our judges and walked away with cash prizes of $250. 

Thanks to our Sponsors and Panel of Judges!

Huge thanks are in order for our sponsors: LA EWDD, SBA, Wells Fargo, Citi Foundation, Verizon, Silicon Valley Bank.  

We also give a huge thank you to our panelists representing traditional and non-traditional lenders:  

Vera Moore from Citibank 

Delores Brown from Clearinghouse CDFI  

Mo Ndoye from Bank of America  

Lucy Babiryan from Comerica  

Duvon Davis from Wells Fargo  

Jorge Sosa from Capital One 

Last, but not least, Jonathan Kinnard from VSEDC CDFI.  

Stay tuned for our next installment in our Signature Events Series: the Women’s History Month Pitch Competition! Apply for the HerStory Pitch Competition here.

If you are an emerging entrepreneur helming a small to medium-sized business, learn more about our Business Coaching services, including loan readiness, here