InnoVentures: Taking Care of Business 

Bianca Juarez of Bianca's Cleaning Services

Over 150 local business owners and entrepreneurs gathered last week at Optimism Brewery for our first ever InnoVentures pitch contest. Thank you to our community of supporters, clients, staff, and friends who helped make this event a great success.

With tons of great Optimism beers on tap and appetizers provided by Thyme Well Spent Catering, guests had the chance to watch five-minute pitches delivered by eight finalists. We were inspired to see their pitches, hear about their businesses, and learn about all the innovative and unique ways Ventures clients are growing their small businesses and improving our community—and their own lives.

By participating in the contest, clients had a chance to hone their “elevator pitches” – to describe their businesses to potential customers or investors, and received invaluable experience in public speaking and networking. Representatives from corporations like Zulily, Whole Foods, and Forum Solutions mingled in the crowd and helped connect client-entrepreneurs to new business opportunities.

A pool of 32 contestants competed through quarter and semifinal rounds to make it to the final event, InnoVentures. Entrepreneurs were judged on community need, innovation, entrepreneurship, feasibility, and presentation. After some tough deliberations by the judges, Ventures was pleased to award Fitsum Misgano of Fitsum-ism Event Management the grand $1,000 cash prize! Congratulations to 1st runner-up Chelo Gable of CHELO Cultured Cashew Crème and 2nd runner-up Paola Jaime of Bilingual Seattle for their awesome pitches. And congratulations to all pitch contest finalists and participants for their hard work!

At the end of the night, Ventures gave its own pitch – an invitation to the community to participate in our spring online fundraising drive called Pitch In. The goal of this campaign is to raise $20,000 in the month of April to help Ventures triple the amount of customized coaching we are able to provide for low-income entrepreneurs in 2017! Donate and help us reach this goal.  

Ventures works hard to demonstrate the value of innovation and entrepreneurship for our clients – this event represented our intentional effort to do something different than a standard dry annual fundraising banquet to generate support from the community. We hope to repeat this event next year, and we can’t wait to see what our clients have in store for us.

Special thanks to…

Our judges, AJ Cari, Brandon Bills, Erik Winters, Heidi Hughes, Jae Easterbrooks, Jennifer Tam, Martha Sandoval, Michele Bayle, Stacey Krynsky and Steve Johnson, who volunteered their time to help make this event a success, and to our corporate sponsors, BECU, Boeing, Vulcan Inc., and Friends of the Waterfront, whose support made this event possible.

Ventures also connected with many local business owners to contribute prizes for InnoVentures contestants. Special thanks to the following for their unique and innovative prize donations: