Michigan Women Forward hosting virtual pitch competition

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Carolyn Cassin Courtesy Michigan Women Forward

Michigan Women Forward will host a virtual WomanUp & Pitch Competition for female entrepreneurs living in West Michigan later this month.

Michigan Women Forward (MWF), a statewide organization focused on creating an inclusive economy so all women and girls can reach their full potential, said Monday that it will host the virtual WomanUp & Pitch Competition for West Michigan on Jan. 28.

The event will feature eight women entrepreneurs from this region presenting their business plans to a panel of business leaders and an audience of community leaders, business owners and potential investors. The event will be broadcast live online from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on MWF’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Those interested in watching can register for a reminder here.

In addition to the Grand Rapids event, virtual pitch competitions will take place for the Jackson area on Feb. 4 and the Detroit area Feb. 16.

“The WomanUp & Pitch event is about so much more than a simple pitch competition,” said Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO, MWF. “It hones the business and presentation skills of participants, fosters cooperation and collaboration, and draws well-deserved attention to the incredible wealth of talent and creativity of Michigan’s women entrepreneurs. We’re very proud to do what we can to help these 30 women build businesses that benefit their communities.”

In each market, $36,000 in prize money will be awarded. Thirty statewide finalists will participate in the competition: 10 each from Grand Rapids, Jackson and Detroit, divided into growth and lifestyle categories. Winners in each category and from each region will earn cash prizes: two $10,000 first prizes per location; two $5,000 second prizes per location; two $2,500 third prizes per location; and an audience choice winner of $1,000 per location. The general public is invited to attend the event and vote for the audience choice winner.

The WomanUp & Pitch event is sponsored by the Consumers Energy Foundation. The foundation has contributed $850,000 toward MWF entrepreneur programs since 2015, including $115,000 for this year’s competitions.

“Consumers Energy has provided nearly $2.5 million to Michigan small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including $200,000 to MWF for the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund. We feel strongly that supporting Michigan’s startup businesses and communities is more important now than ever,” said Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation. “We are excited to provide continued support for Michigan Women Forward and this year’s WomanUp & Pitch Competitions to create opportunities for these entrepreneurs.”

The West Michigan judges for the competition are Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, vice president, customer experience, Consumers Energy; Brad Kessel, president, Independent Bank; and Diana Sieger, president, Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Prior to the pitch competition, MWF paired each finalist with a coach and mentor. The coaches have been working with the finalists to develop their business plans and practice their pitches.

Grand Rapids finalists

GooGenius Draw Club Online: Weekly drawing classes for kids ages 7-18 in Holland, Grand Rapids or virtually, googenius.com 

Happy Bar Services: Offering bartending services from the guest’s bar, a venue’s bar or from the bar provided by Happy Bar Services, happybarservices.com 

Hey Sugar: A mobile cotton candy company using only organic sugar and natural flavors and colors, heysugarcottoncandy.com 

Live Your Song LLC: Children’s book series and workshops dedicated to teaching social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies on the practices of self-love, self-worth, self-confidence, self-identity and self-fulfillment, melodyssong.com 

Jessica Ludlow LLC: Helping coaches attract their dream clients and market themselves online, Iamjessicaludlow.com 

Local Barter Market: Platform for people and businesses to supplement their income by bartering the skills and services they have to get what they need, localbartermarket.com 

Mogo Fuel LLC: Fuel concierge service enabling busy people to function at their highest level of production by bringing gasoline directly to their vehicles.

Wear Your Curls: Helping those with naturally curly hair love, embrace and wear their natural hair by providing the right tools, products, tips, tricks and advice, wearyourcurls.com 

Michigan Women Forward 

Founded in 1986, MWF is a community development organization whose mission is to expand economic opportunity, empower the next generation, and celebrate and honor the accomplishments of Michigan women.

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