On Dec. 7, 2020, local entrepreneurs Cory Crosby and Erica Dickson of Innovated Dreamz hosted the first Virtual Black Business Expo and Pitch Competition bringing a fresh wave of competition to the forefront of the community.
Crosby, Chief Executive Officer of Innovated Dreamz, said the goal of the business expo and pitch competition was two-fold.
“On one hand it provided an opportunity for black businesses in the Columbia to showcase their talent while networking in the community, and on the other hand it provided a competitive element to the event, further engaging people in the community and beyond,” he said.
During the event, there were ten businesses who presented their business models to a virtual audience of more than 4,000 people. The contestants utilized their stories of humble beginnings, aspirations, and vision to capture the attention of the audience and the judges.
Participants included entrepreneurs from various industries including ethnic hair care, daycare providers, firearm training, home health services, writing services, youth camps, customized jewelry, online boutiques, and more.
The contestants were judged based on their ability to identify an unmet need in the community, clearly define their marketing strategy, economic feasibility, the quality of their presentation, and impact on the community-at-large.
Anthony Johnson, Founder of Columbia Supreme, took first place in the competition. His organization provides a mecca for youth interested in playing basketball and enrichment. He was awarded $2,500.
Johnson said he’s been operating the youth basketball program since 2018 and has continuously evolved.
“The kind of work I do with the youth needs to be done so that they feel like they have a support system and a safe place to have fun,” Johnson said. “Following the competition, my goal is to get out in front of as many people as possible so that more people know that we’re here and we can increase our access to resources that would help Columbia Supreme continue to grow”.
Second place winner, A Galaxy of Stars Childcare Founder Lashunda Glasgow, was awarded $1,000, which will be reinvested into her business through payroll to her colleagues who worked tirelessly even after the pandemic impacted normal operations.
Since being in the expo, Glasgow’s business was added to the Minority-Owned Business Directory through the City of Columbia, which she said has helped increase exposure for her daycare and networking abilities.
Glasgow wants aspiring entrepreneurs to know that owning a business takes patience. “Don’t give up and trust the process,” she said.
Third place winner, Moriah Proctor CEO of Proctor Provisions LLC said the competition helped her to overcome her fear of public speaking and also increased her exposure in the community.
Like the majority of business owners, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic caused everyone to adapt their business model and put a limit on the opportunities for connecting with others near and far. This expo was one of many innovative platforms the Innovated Dreamz duo used to connect minority-owned businesses with the exposure and resources they need to flourish. To learn more about upcoming events subscribe to Innovated Dreamz.