This year, and for the first time ever, the YWCA Women’s Empowerment 360° (YW WE360°) program hosted not one, but three pitch competitions to allow women entrepreneurs from across the YWCA network a chance to compete for funding to support their growing businesses. Back in July, YWCA hosted our first ever YWomen Start It Up virtual pitch competition, where six finalists pitched their businesses for a chance to win funding from the $25,000 available. Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, The Coca-Cola Foundation and P&G, we were able to give away over $90,000 in funding to 16 women entrepreneurs! We extend our congratulations to all the entrepreneurs on this critical next step in their businesses and careers!
YW WE360° is a national YWCA program designed to support women and women of color in becoming entrepreneurs, that incorporates wrap-around economic development services designed to create jobs, increase the number of women- and BIPOC-owned businesses, and advocate and assist with the incubation of new businesses.
In November, we hosted the Level Up! Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit and the second YWomen Start It Up pitch competition. Hosted in collaboration with P&G, this virtual summit provided opportunities for women entrepreneurs to connect, strategize, and grow by offering panel discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities with other leaders and entrepreneurs from around the country. The summit was concluded by the pitch competition, where the following finalists were selected to be awarded funds to further their entrepreneurial endeavors:
- 1st Place: Hannah Ferguson | DOPE | $15,000 | YWCA Mahoning Valley
- 2nd Place: Michelle Singh |LCT-E Learning Solutions | $12,000 |YWCA South Florida
- 3rd Place: Sheilisa McNeal-Burgess | Fria | $10,000 |YWCA Northern New Jersey
- Runner-Up: Christina Duren | Beautiful Brown Girls |$5,000 | YWCA South Florida
- Runner-Up: LaKisha Cargill | RIBS | $5,000 | YWCA Central Alabama
Last week, YWCA USA and the Coca-Cola Foundation hosted the third and final YWomen Start It Up pitch competition of the year! During the competition, five finalists pitched their businesses for a chance to receive a monetary award from the $25,000 in cash prizes available. Our finalists were also joined by representatives from YWCA Houston and YWCA Dayton for a roundtable discussion, who offered their insights into women’s entrepreneurship. After careful deliberation, the judges awarded the following entrepreneurs:
- 1stPlace: Jevata Crawford | Project Move | $10,000 | YWCA Allentown
- 2ndPlace: Maleka James | Nurturing Seeds Doula | $5,000 | YWCA Dayton
- 3rdPlace: Yawntreshia Coleman | Magic City Food Tours & Luxury Picnics | $4,000 | YWCA Central Alabama
- Runner-Up: Jillyn Kaufman | Blue Tree Counseling & Consultation| $3,000 | YWCA Quad Cities
- Runner-Up: Shaneaka Goodson | Gracedbybeauty LTD | $3,000 | YWCA Dayton
If you missed it, you can watch the recording here!
While we are proud of the entrepreneurial spirit displayed by these women, many – and particularly women of color – lack the resources necessary to continue operating and maintain financial security. As one of our summit speakers and CEO of Mented Cosmetics, KJ Miller, put it, “having no funding can make a real impact on innovation.”
Empowering women, and especially women of color, has always been fundamental to the YWCA mission. That is why we are extremely proud of all three of the pitch competitions we were able to hold this year thanks to our generous supporters and look forward to hosting many more in the years to come. In the meantime, we will continue to work tirelessly through the YW WE360° program to ensure that women have access to resources such as child care, housing, economic empowerment, and professional development opportunities that level the playing field, encourage growth and innovation, and allow women and their families the space to thrive.
If you found this article compelling or would like to further support this work, find more information on the YW WE360° program or consider giving a gift to YWCA during this holiday season!