Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

This Baltimore conference helped small business founders craft their perfect pitch

The second edition of the So You Want to Pitch Conference provided resources for 84 small business owners, 98% of which were African American women.

So You Want to Pitch competition winners Antoinella Perterkin, Erika Jernigan and Leslie Crawford.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The work that goes into building a business involves lots of working out how it can be feasible behind the scenes. Yet it’s equally important for an entrepreneur to be able to publicly present the product they’re bringing to the world in a condensed form.

That’s why Takia Ross focused a daylong event at Morgan State University’s Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management on pitching.

On Saturday, the second So You Want to Pitch Conference drew 84 small business owners, 98% of which were African American women.

“You won the moment you decided to enter,” Ross, the founder of makeup artistry business Accessmatized, told the entrepreneurs following a pitch competition that concluded the day.

She listed a number of reasons. For one, Ross said, winning pitch competitions and business plan competitions was key to securing funding for her business, which operates Pretty Mobile Baltimore, a mobile makeup studio. Now, Ross has a passion to help expand access to capital for others.

The pitch wins aren’t a traditional funding source, but offer funding that often doesn’t need to be paid back — unlike venture capital, for instance.

And even without a big check, Ross said, the events offer the chance for exposure to potential customers, or investors and others in the community who could help. There’s also the opportunity to get feedback from judges in the form of questions or advice that are offered during the pitch itself. The public platform and required quick thinking creates pressure, but ultimately it’s one that’s designed to produce positive returns.

“We’re asking questions about what you’re doing right,” said Shelly Bell, a judge on the day and founder of Black Girl Ventures, which organizers Boss Up pitch competitions. Funders, she said, are looking for where they can invest to help a business grow.

Throughout the day, the business owners participated in workshops designed to help with the planning and preparation, as well as the pitch itself. Ross said the conference expanded this year to include sessions on pitching specific types of ventures like government contractors and nonprofits, as well as to specific audiences such as customers, bankers and social media users. One workshop also focused on the technology that helps a pitch, while another dug into financials.


At the end of the day, eight business owners closed out the event with a pitch competition that was also a new addition. Below is a look at the founders who pitched. First, the winners:

  • Antoinella Perterkin created the F.A.M.E. Design Program, short for Fashion Art Mentoring Etiquette. Through the program she works with young girls to help embrace creativity, individuality and provide exposure to the fashion and art industry. Peterkin was first place winner of the pitch competition, with the $500 prize sponsored by M&T Bank.
  • Erika Jernigan pitched Lexi’s Little Bug, the ridesharing service for children she launched in September 2018. Jernigan said the service is providing rides to school, and is looking to partner with camps and other programs in the summer months. Winner of second place, Jernigan won a free one-month membership to Spark Baltimore.
  • Leslie Crawford created When Children Write, a program that works to get students involved in writing by working collaboratively on a book. Crawford has a publishing company which produces copies. Earning third place, Crawford will receive a branding photoshoot sponsored by Michelle Holcombe.

And the rest:

  • Dominique Dickens pitched Green Goddess Wellness, a weight loss business that runs 90-day programs that include fitness and mindset exercises.
  • Kimberly Redd pitched Hair Love Bridal Beauty. Redd is creating a space “where hospitality and beauty meet,” offering complete service for bridal parties in one place.
  • Omowunmi Oni-Dandrige, owner of OND Vintage, pitched S.E.W., or sewing educational workshop. The social enterprise is running an eight-week course in Park Heights, teaching STEM principles through sewing.
  • Pedro Moore pitched FundingFuel, a platform which applies crowdfunding principles to investing in a new franchise of a business such as Wing Stop or Dunkin’ Donuts. (Psst, it’s also a Technical.ly Delaware realLIST 2019 honoree.) Moore said he is interested in providing an asset class to help build wealth.
  • Maree Gaines pitched Anointed Candles, which are soy, hand-poured candles designed to relieve negative vibes. Gaines said the business is growing through events.
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