With a $1,500 grand prize on the line, young minority entrepreneurs from around Boston gathered at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business on Feb. 26 equipped with business startup pitches.
The first-ever Greenwood Pitch Competition offered an opportunity for students to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges with the incentive of a year-long mentorship in an area of interest in addition to the $1,500 prize. BU’s Black Business Student Association, the Sigma chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the Iota chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority hosted the competition.
Before the competition began, the judges spoke on a panel about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. They covered how to implement diversity and inclusion in the workplace and how their own companies and institutions have taken such measures.
Nairobi Jeanniton, a senior in the College of Communication, co-president of the BBSA and the second vice-president of the DST Iota Chapter, helped coordinate the competition.
“We really had no idea what went into hosting a pitch competition,” Jeanniton said, “but we decided it’d be a great opportunity to showcase and uplift minority entrepreneurship.”
Jeanniton said she and competition co-founder Jordan Williams shared a mission of uplifting and supporting minority students and worked together to bring the competition to life.
“We thought it’d be a great way to get everyone involved and expand our network,” Jeanniton said.
The competition began after the panel and a networking session. Each team had three minutes to pitch their ideas to the judges.
In order to be eligible to compete, the startups needed to be in the conceptual stage, work toward closing “a significant gap of access, opportunity or outcome for low income communities and/or communities of color” and be “committed to building a diverse team and an inclusive company culture,” according to the program pamphlet.
Waleed El-Jack, a sophomore in Questrom, is the treasurer of BBSA and said he oversaw the funding and budget of the competition. Minority entrepreneurs don’t always have enough representation to feel empowered, El-Jack said, and therefore must motivate one another.
“Through that competition, I think everyone, regardless of if they won or not, just by talking to the competitors, felt really empowered by the judges and by that environment to keep going,” he said.
Nikkolette Gerald, a COM sophomore studying public relations, said she attended the competition to support a friend.
“I’m not a businesswoman, and entrepreneurship sort of scares me,” Gerald said. “But seeing people who are my age, and people I went to high school with, and people who are in my community do these things and being so passionate about them, it’s extremely inspiring. It’s amazing when you see someone who looks like you following their dreams.”
In the end, ScholarJet, a startup geared toward providing action-based scholarships, such as running a marathon or writing a poem, was the winning pitch. Jeanniton said that for most black children, sports or music is presented to them as the most sure path to success.
Therefore, she said it was important to elevate awareness of other paths.
“By giving minority entrepreneurs a platform to raise money and execute these really diverse and incredible ideas,” she said, “we’re really giving ourselves as a community a leg up in pursuing financial fortitude and financial freedom.”