Lura Ball represents Lura’s Kitchen, a start-up business in L.A. (File photo)

Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation celebrated Women’s History Month by honoring three local leaders and holding a women-owned business competition for startups and small businesses.

VSEDC honored three local Los Angeles leaders —Tunua Thrash, senior executive director of LISC-LA; Adriana Cortes, co-owner of restaurants Delicious Southern Cuisine and Delicious at The Dunbar; and Dr. Kay Ramsey, deputy director of Five Keys Schools and Programs.

Chosen from a field of 50 applicants, six finalists pitched their businesses to a panel of judges and an audience of lenders and other small businesses. Finalists were scored by traditional and non-traditional lenders which included representatives from Wells Fargo, Citibank, Union Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Comerica, Silicon Valley Bank, LISC-LA, Clearinghouse, and South Los Angeles BusinessSource (CDFI).

First, second, and third place winners received $1,500, $1,000 and $500, respectively. The Audience Choice Award winner also walked away with an additional $500.

Among the startups, Lura Ball, representing Lura’s Kitchen, with a line of three ingredient gourmet cookie mixes, won first prize. Kelsey Searles from MiliMili, a lifestyle brand company of nursery products, won second prize, and Tiffany Lauderdale from LipzTalk, an all-natural beauty empowerment company, came in third.

Among the small businesses, first prize and the Audience Choice Award went to Karneisha Christian who pitched Puckerup Lemonade, a family recipe with aspirations to be the Starbucks of lemonade. Second prize went to Melissa Tong, whose company, DuckPunk Productions, strengthens brands through storytelling. Structural engineer, Hispalis “Polly” Blanco, came in third with her construction company, Castor Blanco Construction.

Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC) is a community-based nonprofit and Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) recognized for decades of technical and entrepreneurial assistance to South LA small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs. The service VSEDC provides serves to drive community self-sufficiency, facilitate business growth, access to affordable housing, goods and services, and job creation. VSEDC achieves this through youth education and entrepreneurial projects, CDFI programs, and fundraising efforts. Find out more about VSEDC at