Company Culture

Power Moves: Parity Homes’ Bree Jones joins Ignite Capital

Plus, TEDCO's new cohort, CareFirst investment in DEI, Morgan State students achieve and additions to executive teams.

Bree Jones, Founder of Parity.

(Courtesy Photo)

Parity Homes‘ founder and CEO Bree Jones continues to make waves in the social entrepreneurship space by joining Ignite Capital‘s board of directors. She’ll also chair Ignite Capital’s investment committee.

This appointment comes on the heels of the West Baltimore-based company, also known as Parity and focused on rehabbing abandoned properties as affordable housing, receiving $2 million from JPMorgan Chase. Jones thus knows the effect that investments from funders like Ignite Capital, which Innovation Works launched in 2020, can have on a fledgling social impact startup. She is only two years removed from her receipt of the Johns Hopkins University Social Innovation Lab award, which granted her $25,000. Now, she’s buying back the block and is a part of an institution making decisions to invest in young entrepreneurs.

“As someone who benefited from Innovation Works resources and Ignite Capital investment, I understand the transformational power of this organization and I’ll work to expand its positive impact,” said Jones in a statement. “For every issue in Baltimore, there is an enterprising individual with an innovative idea to address it. Unfortunately, first-in patient capital is the most difficult to raise and the most important in the entrepreneurship journey. Ignite Capital is critical because it works to shift systems and remove barriers that stifle Baltimore’s high-impact social innovators.”

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield names Director of DEI

Tonya Odom was recently appointed the health insurer’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She will bring experience from her 13 years at the FBI, which culminated in her becoming the bureau’s first Chief Diversity Officer. She’ll be leading initiatives that aim to broaden the recruiting and retention efforts of one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest insurers so that the company’s workforce more accurately reflects the customers it serves.

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“A lot of work must be done in the healthcare field to reach equity for all, and this work begins in-house,” Odom said in a statement. “I was impressed with CareFirst’s clear prioritization of DEI and know that, with the company’s values and goals guiding and pushing us, we can make even larger strides in this area of the healthcare industry.”

TEDCO announces 26 companies in 2022 SBIR/STTR Proposal Lab cohort

The companies that TEDCO, the Maryland state-backed investment agency that aims to empower the state’s tech sector, named in this year’s Proposal Lab cohort will workshop and finalize proposals for federal awards. This money is administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, with awards reaching as high as $275,000. The money holds extra value for these startups because the funding is nondilutive, which means that it doesn’t require founders to give up equity in their businesses.

TEDCO, also known as the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, boasts a 39% success rate for companies that complete the Proposal Lab and submit proposals, versus the 15% national average for Phase I SBIR awards.

The companies in this year’s cohort are:

Morgan State students win big at HBCU innovation challenge

A team of four entrepreneurs from Morgan State University, the largest of Baltimore and Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), won second place and $15,000 at this year’s AT&T HBCU Innovation Challenge competition. The event featured 13 teams from eight different HBCUs, all competing for awards from a $100,000 prize pool. The quartet split the $15,000 it won for their idea of a virtual reality tool that uses 5G to provide access to educational opportunities regardless of language barriers, financial capabilities and physical access. Congratulations to Meta Bears members Abigail Dina, Dimitri Watat, Makyha Wilridge, and Martin Adu-Boahene.

Leap appoints Vice President of Sales

Taylor Castranova is the new VP of Sales for Columbia-based digital contract solutions company Leap. Castranova brings prior experience as National Vice President of Sales and Client Success for Sales Boomerang, a tech firm focusing on banks and lenders. She will spearhead aggressive growth for Leap in the home services contractors market.

“The home improvement sales process is experiencing significant digital transformations right now, and with its innovative team and market-leading software, Leap is a key player in that shift,” Castranova said in a statement. “I’m very excited to be joining a company that is positioned to revolutionize the estimation and sales process for our industry.” 


Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-
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