Crain's Detroit Business features Jessica Willis, Pocketnest in latest pitch competition highlights
This article originally appeared in Crain's Detroit Business website.
Competition part of effort to support women launching and growing social venture enterprises
15 businesses will compete for $50,000 or more in investments
Business plans will be measured by strength of value proposition, clarity and more
A cluster of women-led businesses in metro Detroit will go head-to-head in a pitch competition in which they will showcase how their companies solve certain community issues.
The Empower Change competition, which is in its second year, is part of an effort to support women entrepreneurs launching and growing social venture enterprises with the chance of winning up to $50,000 in investments.
Ten social enterprises will pitch their concepts on Wednesday at the event hosted by Detroit-based nonprofit Michigan Women Forward and the Ford Motor Company Fund at Ford Motor Co.'s headquarters in Dearborn.
Five businesses in a third category, ideation, which includes startups that are still early in the business process, are to be announced Monday and will compete that day at The Factory at Corktown. The winners of that category will be announced at the Empower Change event on Wednesday.
Last year, more than $50,000 in funding was awarded last year to Every Two Minutes based in Huntington Woods, Detroit-based Motor City Steam and SignOn of Grosse Pointe Farms.
Victoria Washington, co-owner and COO at cookie dough company Detroit Dough, will be among those pitching next week. She said her company gives 5 percent of its sales to Original Creativity, a nonprofit made up of millennials committed to enhancing the NW Goldberg neighborhood in Detroit.
If the business wins an investment, she said it will cover travel expenses for trade shows that would allow it to get face-time with more customers. Washington said she would also use the winnings to upgrade to a 60-quart mixer, which would help with output.
Jessica Willis is CEO at PocketNest, an app aimed at walking millennials and Gen Xers through a complete financial plan. She said winning funds from the competition would pave the way for opportunities to formalize paid pilot programs with certain institutions such as banks. She declined to disclose the companies. The investment would also allow PocketNest to build out the technology needed to tap into the technology of those institutions, Willis said. The fintech company is aiming to launch its free app by the third quarter of this year.
A total of 120 female entrepreneurs submitted concept papers for the competition and from that, 36 were selected for in-person interviews, Peg Tallet, COO of Michigan Women Forward, said in a statement emailed to Crain's. After that, 15 entrepreneurs were chosen and assigned coaches to help flesh out their business plans and prepare effective pitch presentations, she said.
Business plans will be measured by how the business solves the social problem, the clarity of the business plan, competitive advantage and financial model, among other things, according to Tallet. Pitches will be evaluated on style, experience, persuasiveness and more. Categories include growth, launch and ideation, according to a news release.
The 10 announced participating business are:
Owen & Abbey, a reclaimed wood home furnishings maker, Huntington Woods
Brite Bites, an all-natural, probiotic snack company, East Lansing
Dough, a platform aimed at reducing student loan default, Ann Arbor
Buttons2Button, an adaptive wardrobe retailer, Northville
PKSA Karate, a martial arts school, Detroit
Rizzarr, a millennial marketplace, Detroit
PocketNest, a financial technology company, Ann Arbor
Detroit Dough, a cookie dough company, Detroit
Dutton Farms, a farm in Oakland Township
Fierce Detroit, a nonprofit aimed at changing the lives of women, Detroit
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