A trio of business owners from the Baltimore and DC regions were crowned winners of the pitch competition that closed out the first in-person B’more BOLD Business Conference for Entrepreneurs & Innovators this week.
The conference, which took place Monday at the Maritime Conference Center in Linthicum Heights, aims to both celebrate and educate around topics related to entrepreneurship across industries. Organized by the Community College of Baltimore County’s (CCBC) Center for Business Innovation, it featured panels and keynotes from prominent regional business leaders such as Freemount Corporation founder and author Clifton Taulbert, Sage Policy Group leader Anirban Basu and X, the moonshot factory entrepreneur in residence Clarence Wooten.
Wooten was also one of the judges of the pitch competition, for which first-place winner Dominiece Clifton earned $5,000 to support Move and Still. Baltimore-based Clifton’s business focuses on wellness and, per its name, uses movement and stillness practices across such offerings as corporate and community wellness programs. Clifton told Technical.ly that she plans to commit the money toward the acquisition of a cargo van to transport yoga mats, blocks and other equipment she uses in her practice.
Second-place winner Johnathan Gorum won $3,000 to support Exclusiveekicks.com, a high-end sneaker and footwear reselling platform. Gorum, who is based in Prince George’s County, said he plans to split the funds across his company’s different departments, including giving back.
“We will allocate 20% to our entrepreneurship programs and events for the youth, 30% to marketing and 50% to inventory,” he told Technical.ly via Instagram. “The grant allows Exclusiveekicks to attend more sneaker conventions, to purchase inventory that our clients love in-person and online. Also, funding our entrepreneurship programs will allow us to make a difference in our local community and create more exposure to the business.”
Gorum and Clifton also won special awards that gave each of them $650 to commit toward CCBC’s certificate program for continuing education in entrepreneurship.
Third place and $2,000 went to Nakia Cheeks, who runs the boutique catering company Baked & Brunched out of Prince George’s County. She told Technical.ly she plans to open a studio and office space in Laurel this summer.
Beyond this award money, which was at least partly enabled by the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation, the event was also able to successfully raise money to support relief in Ukraine.
According to Center for Business Innovation Executive Director and CCBC associate professor Dennis Sullivan, attendees donated more than $1,600, which will go to the Baltimore-Odesa Sister City Committee. Sullivan said that the partnership with the organization, which aspires to link urgent aid and resources between Charm City and its fellow port city, grew out of a desire to “leverage the conference as an opportunity to help our sister city.” The conference also included a scenario planning workshop with the committee chair and local consultant Karina Mandell, as well as others who spoke about how to help Ukraine and Odesa amid the Russian invasion’s impact on business.
“We held a scenario planning workshop to begin to build a strategic roadmap for Ukrainian entrepreneurs, and to help business owners [understand] how to apply scenario planning to their own businesses,” Sullivan said. “The world has changed dramatically in the last two years and the old ways of strategic planning just aren’t as relevant.”
Sullivan said that the third iteration of this conference — which was first held virtually last year — will take place June 12, 2023. Organizers already solidified 103 reservations, almost half the headcount of 278 who registered for this year’s event.
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