Several companies and ventures at different growth stages each earned multi-thousand prizes during the University of Baltimore’s recent Rise to the Challenge pitch competition.
The night’s largest prize went to Clarrissa Cozart, whose Tailored Fit won the Most Promising Business award and $15,000. Cozart’s company created a fashion line for tall boys that allows customers to shop “waist to inseam,” according to the competition’s Eventbrite page, and addresses the conundrum of taller young people frequently finding pants that fit their inseam but not their waist.
The competition was split into categories for aspiring and existing business ventures. In the former category, Jonah Willard won $2,000 for Grease Garage, a planned shared-economy car garage through which car enthusiasts can meet to work on their vehicles at their leisure. Willard also took home $1,000 for being a crowd favorite. Other competitors in this category included Ikechukwu Opaigbeogu‘s Zety Taste, which offers frozen and ready-to-eat nutritious meals for young adults; and Na’Quon Willet, who won the Dean’s Challenge Award for social impact and $5,000 for Investment Neighbor, a subscription service providing retail investors with data to help them make decisions.
In the existing ventures category, Samantha Mellerson won $5,000 for HeART Sam, which incorporates Afrocentric designs into wearable art on knitted fabrics. The other ventures in this category were Audriana Duvall‘s Single Baes, which won a $1,000 civic engagement award for its shirts that showcase people’s interests and hobbies to facilitate in-person connections (and some proceeds from which support clean-up efforts in Baltimore’s harbor); and Ashley Norman‘s Plasticology LLC, which offers artisans creating zero-waste toiletries a retail platform. retailer for national artisans that offers zero waste, eco-friendly and environmentally safe toiletries.
Although not every venture left with a cash prize from the $30,000 in seed funding and professional services the competition provides, Henry Mortimer, the center’s director, noted that they are all winners.
“The work that they put into this competition, amid the continued uncertainty of a global pandemic, a volatile economy, and national and international unrest — not to mention managing their real personal, academic and professional lives in a virtual world — is nothing short of extraordinary,” Mortimer said in a statement. “My wish is that each caught the attention of someone new who’d be interested in their idea or product, possibly some very influential people who can help nurture the growth of their enterprise and allow them to continue to develop as entrepreneurs.”
You can check out all seven companies’ pitches of all seven companies below:
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.