A third round of Alchemy Sandbox winners each walked away with more than a $5,000 check this week after an intense live pitch experience for the entrepreneurs behind three Kansas City Main Street ventures and two support organizations for Black businesses.
“It was interesting to see how I had all this information in my head, but I did not know how to connect it all together to create a pitch,” said Chelsey M., founder of KC Black Owned, reflecting on the workshop experiences that led to her successful pitch to Alchemy Sandbox judges.
A grant program of The Porter House KC, Alchemy Sandbox provides critical funding, mentoring, and connections to founders in partnership with UMB Bank. Jill Hathaway, senior business development consultant for the Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC, led the workshops.
The program was “challenging, but worth every minute,” the KC Black Owned founder said.
Click here to read more about the origins of KC Black Owned, a social media-rooted support venture for Black-owned businesses in Kansas City.
“The live pitch provided me an opportunity to share my business live with the community of UMKC as well as a panel of judges who may have never heard of my business before,” said Chelsey M., who does not publicly identify her full name because of the sensitive nature of her work on social media, as well as for online privacy and security reasons. “They asked challenging questions at the end that allowed me to think of a deeper level related to the data I presented.”
Those connections were a key reason leaders of The Porter House KC and Alchemy Sandbox chose to hold in-person pitches for the third round of awardees, said Miranda Schultz, program manager at The Porter House KC.
“From a strictly ‘feel-good’ perspective, being back in-person for a live pitch felt — like all answers transitioning back from the ’VID — refreshing,” she said, noting it was a new experience for both the pitchers and the team at Alchemy Sandbox. “We noticed that doing this past round of pitching sessions live opened up other experiences for our business owners, like physically seeing our panel judges; getting connected to representatives from organizations like Kauffman Foundation, UMB Bank, Small Business Development Center (SBDC); physically meeting and watching other business owners going through some of the same (specifically some of the uncomfortable and nerve-wracking feels), challenges of pitching their business; and just physically getting the experience of an in-person pitch.”
The full list of third-round Alchemy Sandbox winners includes:
- LaToya Rozof, 79Roze Dress Shop
- Tee-ka Johnson, KC Top Pix
- Kinley Strickland and Calvin Vick, KC Daiquiri Shop
- Chelsey M., KC Black Owned
- Craig Moore, Black Excellence KC
Interested in pitching your business to Alchemy Sandbox? Click here to apply.
As alumni manager of The Porter House KC, Schultz said, she was proud to offer kudos specifically to 79Roze Dress Shop for being an awardee, as well as a graduate of one the organization’s Small Business Mentorship cohorts.
She was also pleased by the mix of businesses and support organizations like KC Black Owned and Black Excellence KC in the program’s third quarter round.
“However, the most exciting piece that I think I want to make a shoutout to is the representation that three out of the five of these awardees were business owners that had re-applied from Quarter 2,” Schultz said. “A continued goal of this Alchemy Sandbox program is to create a space (and show the importance of) the resiliency and sometimes, uncomfortability, that entrepreneurship can bring.”
“Seeing three out of these five small business awardees take their feedback from their previous pitch experience and implement these changes represents our hope in what all these small business owners of this Alchemy Sandbox program can lean in to.”
For KC Black Owned, the program is a jumping off point, said Chelsey M.
“Now that I have this experience under my belt and I have acquired a new language related to pitching, I am seeking out other grant opportunities that would allow me to operate on other projects that my business needs help funding,” she said, noting she’s also been asked to speak at multiple conferences related to social media and branding since participating in Alchemy Sandbox.
Click here to read more about Alchemy Sandbox’s previous winners.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.