Michigan Women Forward launching ‘53 Voices’ pitch challenge

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Alexis Dishman. Courtesy Michigan Women Forward

Michigan’s female entrepreneurs are invited to send in their audio business pitches for a new competition sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.

Michigan Women Forward said Monday, July 26, it is inviting any women in the state with a business idea to apply to the “53 Voices” pitch challenge sponsored by Fifth Third Bank that will give $5,350 in cash prizes to the winners. 

The challenge is designed to address income inequality through entrepreneurship by providing anyone with an idea access to the capital, training resources and social connections needed to remove barriers, take an idea and turn it into a viable business.

Rather than relying exclusively on their ability to put pen to paper, Michigan Women Forward is asking applicants to submit audio business pitches. Each applicant has up to 53 seconds to verbally describe their idea or existing business for consideration.

53 Voices is open to all individuals — even those without a background in business, higher education or training — in support of Michigan Women Forward’s mission to expand economic opportunity for female entrepreneurs in the state.

Applications are open from Monday, Aug. 2, through Wednesday, Aug. 18, and must also include a one-page concept paper. Only women who currently live in Michigan are eligible to apply.

“Too often, women — particularly women of color — get overlooked and underestimated in pitch competitions. We’re excited to hear the passion and inspiration in applicants’ voices,” said Alexis Dishman, chief lending officer at Michigan Women Forward. “Though we cannot completely remove our personal biases, we can all hold ourselves responsible for reducing them. Our 53 Voices challenge was created to help women and girls reach their full potential.”

In the first round of the pitch challenge, a group of judges will review the concept papers and 53-second voice submissions to select the top 53 applicants. Finalists will receive $100 and be invited to three training workshops. Completion and attendance of all workshops is mandatory to progress in the challenge.

During round two, the judges will identify the top 10 finalists. Each contestant will submit a 53-second video to receive $250. The videos will be voted on by the community for the chance to win the first prize of $5,000. The second-place winner will receive $2,500, and the third-place winner will receive $1,000.

“This is a chance to make your voice be heard,” said Tawnya Rose, vice president and community development manager at Fifth Third Bank. “Fifth Third Bank is proud to support Michigan women as they manifest their ideas and work towards their dreams.”

The winner of the 53 Voices pitch challenge will be announced on Oct. 19. For entry submission information, visit miwf.org.

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