Ten startups have been chosen to pitch for funding and resources from Michigan Women Forward.
Michigan Women Forward (MWF) said Wednesday, March 23, it will host the next installment of its seventh annual WomanUp & Pitch Competition virtually from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 31, on Michigan Women Forward’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
The event will feature 10 women entrepreneurs who will present their food business plans to a panel of business leaders and an audience of community leaders, business owners and potential investors.
“This competition is an opportunity for women entrepreneurs throughout the state to advance professionally within the food and restaurant industry,” said Carolyn Cassin, MWF president and CEO. “Michigan Women Forward is proud to provide cash prizes, expert judges and professional development resources to support these women and help them take the next step in their business journey.”
The finalists from across the state are:
- Aiye Akhigbe of Sticky Spoons Jam — a veteran-owned business based in Niles with 100 flavors of jams and jellies made from locally grown fruits
- Garnette Archer of Jo’s Gallery Café — a “warm and inviting space” on the Avenue of Fashion in Detroit that can be used for community meetings, celebrations and vendor fairs
- Aftin Bates of Vanilla Plus Extract — a Kentwood-based seller of luxury, pure-ingredient vegan vanilla extract
- Alyson Caillaud-Jones of Chartreuse Sisters — a French-American fusion patisserie in Grand Rapids run by two sisters offering flavors inspired by their heritage
- Kendra Everett of Savor Life Wellness — a seller of “convenient, handmade” specialty snacks based in Mason
- Kassidy Fifer of The Calypso — a wine bar in downtown Bay City that focuses on education of wine types and winemaking
- Kaleen McElveen of Tastefull Vegan Frozen Desserts — a Grand Rapids business that offers sugar- and allergen-free frozen desserts
- Gabriella Occhialini of Zippy’s Coffee — a mobile coffee concept in Detroit specializing in espresso beverages
- Marisela Sierra of Navarro’s — a third-generation, family-owned Mexican takeout restaurant in Muskegon Heights
- Mandy Young of Spun Sugar Detroit — a business that serves gourmet cotton candy that offers “childhood sweetness with a modern-day twist”
The 2022 judges include Kyama Kitavi, Fair Food Network investment manager; Lucy Dilley, Can-Do Kitchen executive director; and Chef Quiana “Que” Broden, founder and executive chef of the Kitchen, by Cooking with Que.
The finalists are divided into two categories: established and startup food businesses. 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.
Prior to the competition, MWF paired each finalist with a coach and mentor. The coaches have been working with the finalists to develop their business plan and practice their pitches.
The public is invited to attend the event and vote for the audience choice winner. Individuals can register at Eventbrite.