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TOPEKA — Building an equitable business community in Shawnee County is critical to economic development in and around the state’s capital city, said Glenda Washington. A pitch competition slated for GEW Topeka is a step toward filling in the gaps.
“We needed to make sure that the minorities and women in this community were getting equal footing,” explained Washington, chief equity and opportunity officer for the Greater Topeka Partnership, which is presenting Thursday’s Equity and Opportunity Pitch Competition. “We specifically targeted those two groups to help them build their ecosystem; to make sure they feel seen and have a competitive advantage.”
In its third year, the pitch competition — presented by the Greater Topeka Partnership and GO Topeka — is part of the city’s Global Entrepreneurship Week events and set for 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Greater Topeka Partnership, 719 South Kansas Ave.
“While many people wish to start their own businesses, entrepreneurship does not always become a reality, especially for people of color,” said Tobias Harvey, chair of the Topeka/Shawnee County Small Business Council, in a news release. “Many times, these individuals are already facing greater challenges when it comes to financial stability, homeownership, and family or health issues that can stifle professional growth.”
A dozen Shawnee County entrepreneurs will get seven minutes to pitch their women- or minority-led startups with four of them winning a share of $38,000 to jumpstart their ventures.
“It’s a significant investment to help these entrepreneurs to get started or reach that next level of growth in their business,” added Stephanie Moran, senior vice president of innovation for GO Topeka.
Dané Shobe, founder and publisher of Sun Hero Magazine, won $10,000 in the 2022 pitch competition.
“This opportunity was nothing short of life altering on multiple levels,” he said in a news release. “Not only did it allow me to take my dream from concept to reality; it also validated my belief that there was value in what I sought to do, and for that and more, I will always be grateful.”
Participants also receive coaching for their pitches and help with business plans, marketing and loans, Moran noted.
“The money is great, but if you don’t have the other resources around it, it’s not always a successful scenario,” she explained. “Being able to provide those additional support resources really helps these businesses get off the ground and have a successful start.”
“You can get one-on-one coaching with one of us if you need to,” Washington added. “Here recently I’ve been able to introduce some folks to Hy-Vee to put their product in Hy-Vee. We have a whole gamut of resources to support the entrepreneur along the way.”
The Equity and Opportunity Pitch Competition is just one of the pitch events that the Greater Topeka Partnership and GO Topeka are hosting across the ecosystem, Moran said, noting a recent competition for college students at Washburn University and an upcoming youth competition.
“It’s really just connecting these entrepreneurs at all levels and giving them the opportunity to work with those support resources,” she continued, “but then also to see how others within the network are proceeding. It’s that cross collaboration amongst the different sectors, as well.”
Entrepreneurs participating in the Equity and Opportunity Pitch Competition include:
- Stacey Briggs — The Golden Bubbler
- Ebony White — Inspire and Company Candles
- Erin Young — Calm Catalyst
- Angelique Taylor — AO NOLA Praline Candy
- Lamona Scroggins — Chef Lamona
- Jaime Davis — Dog Treat Bakery
- Fatima Luthi — Grind Consulting
- Alberto Jammott — Unforgettable Events
- Misha Reed — Yoga on the Go
- Esteban Polanco — Paletas Royale
- Stacey Lyddon — Art Gallery Vacation Home Rentals
This series is possible thanks to Go Topeka.
Go Topeka seeks economic success for all companies and citizens across Shawnee County through implementation of an aggressive economic development strategy that capitalizes on the unique strengths of the community.