(L to R) Contestants to move forward to Houston, Michael Cousins (Sympliant), Jazmie State (Geaux Learn), Jordan Syms (HLDR), Donte Savage (Prolinked LLC), Tricia Vickers (Kitty Kare Beauty). Photo: Saybin Roberson

The National Black MBA Association held it’s West Coast Scale-Up Pitch Challenge Regional Competition in the historic business district in Downton Los Angeles, an opportunity for entrepreneurs in various industries a chance to grow their business.

The Scale-Up Pitch Challenge was launched in 2017 to link startups with the opportunity to meet early-stage investors and venture capitalists who are ready to invest in an upcoming business. The competition is designed to “Make Ideas Bigger”.

Held at the Shopify LA, Friday, August 23, 2019, the NBMBAA welcomed 10 contestants to pitch their startups to five judges in attempts to win the grand prize of $50,000 to put back into their businesses. Of the 10 contestants, five were selected to move forward to the final round, the 41st Annual Conference and Exposition in Houston September 2019.

Moderated by Jon Walls, NBMBAA Los Angeles Chapter President, kicked off with great energy and enthusiasm. Judges included Cassandra Melhuish, Senior Executive Director of Boisset Collection, Catherine Grooms, Director of SBDC – Small Business Development Center, Leonard Washington Consultant at The Washington Group, Matthew Derrico-Pass FADP Performance Manager at Merrill-Bank of America, and Stacyann P. Russell Senior Consultant and Performance Improvement-Supply Chain at Ernst & Young. Beginning remarks were also made by Paula Fontana, VP of Strategic Programming Initiatives, on behalf of NBMBAA headquarters in Atlanta, and Kyle Foster of Shopify LA.

The contestants’ pitch ideas ranged from systems to help students gain access to college information, reading resources, healthy food alternative applications, skincare products, and more. Each prepared a three-minute pitch, followed by a three-minute time slot for judges to ask questions regarding their presentation.

Of the 10 contestants, the five who were chosen to move forward to the final round are Jazmine Staten with Geaux Learn, Jordan Syms of HLDR, Tricia Vickers of Kitty Kare Beauty, Donte Savage of Prolinked LLC, and lastly Michael Cousin with Sympliant.

“I feel like we get left out of the conversations when it comes to a lot of issues, and that’s okay, but we recognize that and really empower ourselves to use our resources,” Kitty Kare Beauty Co-Founder, and member of the Dallas NBMAA board member, Tricia Vickers stated.

(L to R) Winners along with members of NBMBAA LePra George, Paula Fontana, Cousins, Staten, Syms, Savage, Vickers, NBMBAA member, and host Jon Walls. Photo: Saybin Roberson

At the closing of the event, there was joy throughout the room in support of one another and relief that the chosen five had moved forward. One winner expressed her joy and feelings towards reaching her goal, “It’s extremely exciting, I think it’s a win for all of us,” Vickers stated. “I’ve been accustomed to kind of getting to support people, but it’s great they have a program in place to support me as well as an entrepreneur, so it’s been an absolute pleasure to go to the next round.”

“It’s a great stepping stone,” Donte Savage of Prolinked LLC shared. “Just got to keep working and stay diligent on what we need to get accomplished and get ready for the next one.”

The Houston conference will feature 15 contestants five from each regional competition. Winners are now to readdress mistakes, clean up their pitch and return ready for the final round. Savage further explained it’s a celebration of a short victory, but there’s more work to be done.

Every pitch was stood as a great idea, change agent and an inspiration to all Black entrepreneurs. Vickers, full of joy and gratitude expressed, “Today has been an example of Black excellence!”

To get further information on the National Black MBA Associate visit nbmbaa.org. For more information on the Scale-Up Competition visit https://nbmbaa.org/scale-up-pitch-challenge/