The women of the 2015 Grow My Business class are amazing people. They all have unique business ideas and great pitches to go along with them. They prove that you can have it all! Everyone was equally as passionate about their products, poised during their presentations, and empowered from within. The entrepreneurs weren’t the only empowered members of the group though, they left the audience members feeling inspired and empowered to follow their dreams as well.
Grow My Business Plan Pitch had a “Shark Tank” like quality to it. Entrepreneurs presented their business models, appraised their gains and losses, and then asked for an investment. Although there were no investors at the event, there were many forerunners in the local corporate world on the panel of judges. Amongst the judges were Gordon from Giant Foods, Carol Politi, Jonas DeMuri-Siliunas from Hiltop Microfinance, Jaysel Shah from Hiltop Microfinance, Melissa Reitkopp our executive recruiter on the EWI board, and Earl Furfine who is the EWI treasurer. The judges brought forward very important and critical questions like how do the entrepreneurs plan to expand their base, what are new ways they are advertising themselves, and whether a few of the entrepreneurs have looked into federal funding or licensing. Everyone had a total of 6 minutes to present their pitches: 3 minutes to speak and 3 minutes for questions. There were a total of 10 entrepreneurs who presented for the night.
Suzanne Amoonarquah -Aburi Botanicals
All of Suzanne’s products are one hundred percent vegan and made from natural ingredients sourced from Ghana. Her plan is to better utilize social media and online methods in order to increase traffic to her website. The judges asked if she was ready for a sudden spike in online orders if her methods are successful and with a bright smile on her face, she said yes.
Jane Mwinuka- Highlander Services
Jane’s business is a specialty cleaning service, her business stands out from the crowd because she uses only natural cleaning products. Her model is not only better for us, 50% of illnesses are due to indoor air quality, but her products are good for the environment as well. The judges proposed that she expand her base and asked how she would go about doing that. She stood faithful to her business model and said that she did want to expand but refused to compromise the quality of her service by taking on too many clients.
Danielle Rash- Resume Writing and Career Services
Danielle is a proud military veteran with 15 years of HR service. Her business is called First class and she provides one on one expertise on resume writing for government jobs and civilian jobs. During her presentation she remained witty yet professional as she stated that many of her clients have been hired because of their impressive resumes yet she still needs to work on expanding her clientele by using social media and creating a new website.
Barbara Schoeberl- Earth Today
Barbara is a former NASA employee, who wants to bring earth science information to everybody, including children of all ages and adults too. The main purpose of her business is to stimulate scientific thinking and questioning into everyone’s mind, including people who are not used to scientific information. With its visually rich interactive material and its intuitive game-like interface, ET tries to engage the mind and inspire interest in understanding more about the Earth and its system. She has settled some goals like to move her product online with subscription fee and to launch her app for iPad/ iPhone. Her system has already been used by museums and elementary schools, so this app will probably be a great success!
Sandra Owusu-Ansah – Earth Steward Enterprise
Sandra’s business is both useful and a good deed as well. Sandra learned from a very young age how to transform old discarded items into beautiful, innovative works of art. Thus she came up with her business, Earth Steward Enterprise. Now she does in home consultations to appraise what items can be remade into new statement pieces for the home. She has been getting her name out through word of mouth. The judges were intrigued by such a new concept!
Tammie believes that we have to rethink the way we feed in our communities in order to ensure the success of our children. Her business plan is to address food insecurity by making urban gardening more accessible for everyone. Currently, Tammy is the stream keeper of Rock Creek Tributary. Her plans for Maroon Garden would be to open up a demo garden right along this Creek, which would allow for community building, organizing, and overall healthy eating. After its opened, Tammy plans to make this Creek and urban garden hosts for several community activities and organization in order to increase revenue and awareness.
Mare is an Amharic word for both the term of endearment and the raw product known as honey. All of her skin care products are made out of beeswax and honey sourced from Ethiopia. Her products are incredibly successful because of the long shelf-life that honey has and because of the beautiful scent her products produce from the natural oils she uses versus chemical fragrances her competitors use. She also plans on expanding her market by becoming a supplier of Ethiopian honey to small Ethiopian stores. She knows this will be a profitable business because there is a demand for Ethiopian honey, however, there is no supplier. After doing the math, she has concluded that there is a $4 profit per kilo of honey transported. Judges prompted her to consider what licensing a raw product would entail. However, Evise was already prepared and has already reached out to the FDA for information on that.
Mame & Diana N’Diaye- Nygoea Designs
Mother and daughter work together to create and distribute works of art that are both beautiful and highlight the potential of people with disabilities. Currently they sell beautiful prints and silk screen t-shirts with their artwork on it. Their goal is to eventually raise enough money to open a studio where disabled and not-disabled artists can work together. They have somewhat of an internet presence but they plan to become more prominent on social media and to open a shop on etsy.
Aida spent the entire first year of developing her business studying marketing strategies. She realized that what the market wanted was interesting and unique tasting pastries. One of her bestselling items is her special Egyptian Baklava. Her items have been selling off the shelves in small grocers and coffee shops, adding up to $31,000 in revenue last year. This year, she has an agreement to sell a few of her items with Whole Foods. Aida also holds cooking classes and caters for private or corporate events. The judges were curious about Cooking and Beyond’s agreement with Whole Foods. Aida happily announced that Whole Foods will be selling 500 pieces of her baklava every two weeks in two different locations. She hopes to expand into selling her items as frozen pieces and creating partnerships with other large grocers, like Giant, as well.
LaDon James- Lens & Love Photography
LaDon works together with a makeup artist to create unique photoshoot experiences and helps transform those moments into memories. Currently, LaDon is running a “Love Her Beauty” campaign for Mother’s Day. For this campaign she is offering three different packages that offer her customers a unique variety of photo-shoots, makeovers and dedicated times. She has found that her best marketing agency has been through social media. The day of the Plan Pitch, she excitedly announced that Revlon recognized one of their pictures on Instagram. She was recently contracted by a school to take pictures of all of their teachers. She plans to invest more time and effort into outreach campaigns and getting in touch with magazines.
After everyone pitched their business plans, the floor opened up so that mentors, students, and judges could share thoughts, comments, ideas, and make connections. The rest of the night was filled with constructive discussion and excitement while EWI’s students eagerly took down notes and names that will help them further grow and expand their businesses.
We would like to thank all of our judges as well as the Trainers and Mentors that made this night a success for our entrepreneurs.
To be empowered is to be self-sufficient, to be comfortable with yourself, and to be proud of something you have done. After watching the Grow My Business Plan Pitch event, I do not believe there could be better words to describe the students of EWI. These women were impassioned about their projects and proud of the successes they have made so far.
It was impossible not to feel inspired after watching each woman proclaim the results of their unique ideas. They spoke with poise and confidence and it was infectious. I found myself grinning from ear to ear as Mame presented her artwork and Aida let us taste test her baklava. They made me realize that it was never too late or too impossible to do anything. My chest swelled with excitement as I watched students and mentors exchange valuable ideas; working together for the betterment of each future, life, and family. I can already feel the importance of what we do at EWI. I can’t wait to see what the future events will have in store. – Sarah Mustafa, Program Associate Rockville & Maryland Intern
Experiencing Grow My Business Pitch for the first time has been one of the exciting and enriched experiences I’ve had since I came to the United States. Not only did I get to listen stories that motivated me as a woman, but it also made me realize about the wonderful ideas that are out there and that need to be empowered in order to be developed and have success. I also realized that empowering does not include just one person who wants to launch its own business. It’s about helping each other and this I learned at the past GMB pitch, when I saw all the women cheering on each other’s presentation, giving some advice to their fellow entrepreneur mates or when everyone was eating Aida’s fantastic baklavas and everybody was telling her how fantastic they were.Watching each woman proclaim the results of their unique ideas with poise and power left an overwhelming effect on me as well. I found myself grinning from ear to ear as Mame presented her artwork and Aida let us taste test her baklava. They made me realize that it was never too late or too impossible to do anything. My chest swelled with elation and excitement as I watched students and mentors exchange valuable ideas; working together for the betterment of each future, life, and family. I can already feel the importance of what we do at EWI. I can’t wait to see what the future events will have in store.
More than actually learning about a proper business model for a successful entrepreneurship, I understood that entrepreneurial success meant learning from each other. At the GMB pitch, each woman had a fantastic idea that could be useful to the other students, each one had a mistake that could also be valuable for them, but what it’s most valuable about this experience is that as women, we need each other, because we are strong but when it comes to entrepreneurship, we are stronger together. – Natalia Vega Verala, Events & Outreach Intern