Winners of Our Village United grants display their awards. (Courtesy photo)

Our Village United, a nonprofit organization focused on building strong, resilient communities through the delivery of culturally competent technical training and small business incubation,  hosted its ELEVATED Tour in partnership with Mastercard’s “In Solidarity” Initiative and BeyGOOD Black Parade Route.

The event offered a vibrant and enriching in-person experience, including a pitch competition allowing eligible ELEVATED businesses the chance to participate and compete for up to $75,000 in grant funds.

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The event was held on Dec. 14, at the Blackbird Collective in Culver City with Emmy-nominated actress, entrepreneur, and best-selling author Tabitha Brown serving as a contest judge.

Designed exclusively for members of the Black Parade Route, local business owners embarked on a 12-week journey to help bridge the gap between theory and practice in entrepreneurship. Much of the experience was performed through virtual lessons with live instructors, lunch and learns with corporate leaders, wellness sessions for mental health and concluded with an in-person celebration that allowed five participants to pitch the purpose and future of their companies to win non-dilutive capital.

The graduation dinner also included a fireside chat with thought leaders and industry titans Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon, the founder of Our Village United; Salah Goss, senior vice president, Center for Inclusive Growth at Mastercard; Brandon “Stix” Salaam-Bailey, musician, activist and entrepreneur; also serving as judges with Sandy Fernandez, vice president, Center For Inclusive Growth.  After the fireside chat entrepreneurship took center stage for a pitch contest in which cohorts competed for capital funding, Quanda King of Paint Noir, a business dedicated to mental wellness through art, took home $15,000 in grant money.

Monique Webber of MLWPR, who was a grant award recipient for the BeyGOOD Foundation during the RENAISSANCE World Tour stop in Los Angeles, won $20,000 for financial assistance to support her Las Vegas-based public relations agency dedicated to beauty brands.

While additional monetary rewards were given through levels of microgrants for superlatives and other honors, the ultimate prize of $25,000 went to Amber Stanford, founder and owner of Ambeezy’s Organic, a dog treat company.

“Right now, I’m filled with gratitude because this grant program has truly been a blessing,” said Stanford after  receiving her first-ever grant award.

“I have been funding this business out of pure love for pets’ well-being and everything has been out of pocket. I honestly didn’t have the tools or resources to sustain the business so I’ve questioned many times if I should continue this business due to inflation, etc. This program was a blessing and has changed my life. It was also God’s way of telling me I got you and you got this- stay the course! So my heart is full and I’m determined to go harder for my community.”

Our Village United, Inc. is an award-winning 501c3 organization headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. OVU is dedicated to serving entrepreneurs in search of community and growth with the goal of providing intentional, robust offerings that meet business owners where they are and welcome them into a nurturing collective providing tools, resources, grant opportunities for qualified businesses and wellness support.

Next stops on the tour include Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, and New Orleans.

Amani Saleem contributed to this report.