Those making business pitches were, from left, Humberto Alvarez Hernandez, Juana Garcia-Cruces, Evangelina Abundis, Encima Falcon, Nancy Quero Ramirez and Alejandro Cruz. Courtesy West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s first Latino Business Pitch Competition split $5,750 among five winners.
The inaugural event, May 26 at Rockford Construction’s headquarters at 601 First St. NW, Grand Rapids, featured entrepreneurs and small-business owners of West Michigan’s Latino community bringing their A-game to pitch business ideas and win prize money.
Eighteen local Latino entrepreneurs and small-business owners competed in the event, announced in April. Ten made the first cut, and eventually six were invited to pitch their ideas before a panel of four fellow local Latino business owners and entrepreneurs. All 10 received a one-year membership to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
During the final round of competition, the six entrepreneurs each had about seven minutes to describe their business before the panel.
“We … are very pleased with the participation in our first year of doing this,” said Jorge Gonzalez, executive director of the WMHCC. “Based on the response, we feel there is a need.”
The first-place winner was Alejandro Cruz for iRideSmart, a Grand Rapids-based luxury taxi/car rental transportation service business. Cruz received $2,500.
iRideSmart, founded in 2009 and run out of 1167 Madison Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, is a private chauffeur business, according to its Facebook page. Other winners:
- Second place: Juana Garcia-Cruces was awarded $1,500 for New Valley Landscape LLC, an Ada-based, woman-owned landscaping business.
- Third place: Nancy Quero Ramirez received $1,000 for Guelaguetza Design, an ethnic Grand Rapids-based women’s clothing and accessories store that features products from the Oaxaca region of Mexico.
- Fourth place: Encima Falcon received $500 for Pure Nails salon.
- Fifth place: Evangelina Abundis received $250 for El Globo Restaurante, a Mexican restaurant at 350 28th St. SE, Grand Rapids.
Fifth Third Bank and local Latino businesses Lindo Mexico and Supermercado Mexico provided the money for the grand prizes. Each presenter was required to specify in their pitch how he or she would use the winnings.
In addition to the prize money, West Michigan law firm Varnum LLP pledged a total of $12,500 for in-kind legal services to the six entrepreneurs who made pitches.
“This is just the beginning, and I am very proud to be serving in this capacity and humbled by all this support,” Gonzalez said. “We asked that the winners use their funds as outlined in their presentation — whether it be for landscaping equipment, clothing material or partial payment for the design of a mobile app for their business.”