Building a flourishing and sustainable economy in South LA demands the success of its entrepreneurs. Founded by the visionary leader Marva Smith Battle-Bey, VSEDC carries a legacy of empowering businesses through platforms like our pitch competitions. These events connect lenders with aspiring business owners, providing access to crucial capital, learning opportunities, and a valuable network.

Our community is fortunate to have inspirational talents, such as those showcased during our 2023 Hispanic Heritage Month Pitch Competition. Entrepreneurs like Alondra Carbajal of Blank Tag Co., with her culturally relevant stickers that celebrate and connect diverse communities, and Elizabeth Jose Esteves of Holistic HR Solutions, who provides exceptional human resources assistance to businesses of all sizes, exemplify the spirit of innovation and community engagement we strive to foster.

Continuing our commitment to empowering diverse voices, VSEDC celebrated Black History Month by showcasing Black entrepreneurship in LA.

In February, VSEDC held its annual Black History Month Pitch Competition, broadcast live from our Business Enterprise Center in Chesterfield Square. Our event honored the achievements of three exceptional individuals and showcased the innovative soul of six Black-owned businesses.

Contending finalists from a pool of 80 applicants received 60 seconds to present their business concept, value proposition, and market understanding. Competing in two categories—startups and small businesses—they showcased their entrepreneurial passion while vying for the judges’ favor. The judges panel, representatives from traditional and non-traditional lenders, selected the winners, and VSEDC awarded them $1,500, $1,000, and $500 for first, second, and third place, respectively.

The panel evaluated each pitch based on five essential criteria:

  • Storytelling: How effectively did the entrepreneur convey their journey and vision?
  • Value Proposition: What unique value does the business offer its target market?
  • Market Knowledge: Did the entrepreneur clearly understand their competitive landscape?
  • Clear Ask: Was the call to action concise and compelling?
  • Closing Strength: Did the pitch leave a lasting impression on the judges?

Competition was fierce, but Genelle Brooks-Petty of All Chill Hip Hop Ice Cream Shop ultimately triumphed in the Startup category, captivating the judges with her ingenious blend of music culture and delightful desserts. Jazmine La-Dosaer of Noire Wine Lounge and Dale Hayes of The Pad Construction secured second and third place, respectively, showcasing the diverse range of innovative ideas within the South LA startup scene.

Toushonta Hogan of Scentsational Soaps took first place in the Small Business category with her pitch that blended business acumen with a passion for natural, enriching self-care products. A Kouture of Dotz Allergy Friendly Baked Goods and Dori Mullins of CM Simple followed closely behind, securing second and third place, respectively.

But the celebration didn’t end there! Recognizing the incredible talent among all participants, VSEDC offered a unique opportunity for the runners-up to shine. 

Aaron Jones of The Original Taco Pete, Teresa Campbell of Size Beautiful, Mercedes Squires of Carribean Soul Kitchen LA, and Tashiba Jones-Wilson of Matte-Argyle delivered lightning-round pitches. To their surprise, each runner-up received a well-deserved cash prize of $250.

The event also honored three individuals who exemplify the values of community, empowerment, and excellence:

  • Karen A. Clark, Senior Vice President, Marketing Product Digital for City National Bank: A champion of diversity and leadership, awarded the 2024 Award of Excellence.
  • Calvin Selth, Program Manager, AnnenbergTech at Annenberg Foundation: Dedicated to promoting equity and inclusion in tech, honored with the 2024 Award of Excellence.
  • Nappily Naturals: Embodying the spirit of Los Angeles with their natural products, awarded the 2024 Award of Excellence.

In the spirit of continuous empowerment, we eagerly invite women to apply for our upcoming HerStory Women’s History Month Pitch Competition on March 28th. We’re looking for women ready to take their business ideas to the next level. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.

Do you have a business idea, or are you in the process of scaling your venture? This is your moment to shine and join the ranks of successful women entrepreneurs transforming South LA’s economic landscape.

VSEDC is here to help! We offer a comprehensive range of resources, including:

VSEDC is your one-stop shop for entrepreneurial success. Visit VSEDC to learn more and connect with us today!