The Venture Center, a Little Rock nonprofit offering entrepreneurial support and accelerator programs for startups, in collaboration with Venture Noire and Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, hosted a virtual “Pint ‘N’ Pitch” contest yesterday afternoon for 10 Arkansas entrepreneurs who competed for cash prizes. The contest focused on women, people of color and veterans whose Arkansas-based businesses have been negatively affected by the pandemic or make less than $100,000 in annual sales. Each contestant was given three minutes to make their pitch.
“We’re proud of everyone who participated in yesterday’s pitch event,” Wayne Miller, The Venture Center’s executive director, said in a press release. “Women, people of color and veterans suffered the most negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, including in the entrepreneurial space. Intentionally bolstering support for these communities is essential, and we’re thrilled that yesterday’s pitch event made positive progress towards that goal. We look forward to working with all the contestants in the months and years to come.”
Nicole Winstead, owner of WoofCat, an all natural human-grade pet treat e-commerce company, won $1,000 for the audience choice award. WoofCat treats are made with organic dehydrated ingredients consisting of garbanzo flour, hand-pressed peanut butter and coconut flakes.
Samantha Stewart, co-owner and front-of-house manager for Certified Pies, won third place and $5,000. Certified Pies opened last October and is Little Rock’s only Black-owned pizza company. The Certified team operates out of Arkitchen — a 5,000-square-foot shared commercial kitchen space offering caterers, bakers and food truck owners an incubator to develop their food businesses. So for now, Certified is only able to do curbside to-go business and delivery through third parties.
Certified Pies was nominated for the 2021 emerging minority business of the year through the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. Stewart said winnings would be used towards the goal of Certified expanding hours and getting its own brick and mortar location.
Ayana Baraka, filmmaker and owner of Edamame Films, won second place and $10,000. Baraka said her company is a unique business that addresses the systemic issues of the film industry in two ways: it produces content by and about women, people of color and disenfranchised communities. It also provides training by skilled women and women of color working in the film industry. Baraka said funding would be used to provide more film industry training and professional hardware, software and advertising. “It’s important that we know what roles exist and that we can exist within these roles,” she said.
April Roy, founder and CEO of femPAQ, a provider of convenient sustainable emergency kits for menstruation, won first place and $15,000.
A femPAQ includes: one Tampon, one pad, one panty liner, one black panty, one feminine wipe, one 2-tablet packet of Ibuprofen, and one mini organic dark chocolate bar.
“We’ve developed a convenient sustainable emergency kit to help businesses stay prepared for menstruating customers and employees,” she said. “Our kits provide security and protection, cleanliness and discretion and a solution for cramps and cravings.”