InnoVentures 2020: Meet the finalists!

You might have seen our announcement this past weekend that InnoVentures 2020 is now a virtual event. This is not how we were planning to celebrate our 25th anniversary, but in the past week our team has been turning lemons into lemonade and designing our first-ever online competition.

Our six finalists have made their final pitches for the $5,000 first-place cash prize. The entire program was completed following local, state, and federal public health guidelines and will be streamed on our Facebook page on March 26th at 6:00pm as planned. We have some tips for how to watch on Facebook Live, and Ventures entrepreneur Rafael Alarcon of La Malquerida shared some of the recipes that his team was originally planning to share with our audience at the in-person event.

Please note that if you bought a ticket to the original event, you do not have to re-register and will receive an email invitation with a link to the video.

Now — without further ado, allow me to introduce our finalists!

“[InnoVentures] has been really great. It’s also been really nice to have that solidarity, just talking to other small business owners.”

– Gina Grey, OOliva

“Empecé mi negocio en necesidad de hacer lo que amo yo mismo, no trabajar por nadie mas, sino poder explotar mi talento para mi mismo y la necesidad que hay en este campo.”

– Pablo Velez, LoArt75 Productions (en español)

“Going through the program really solidified the fact that I could do something like this, versus it just being a hobby or a pipe dream.”
– Angela Prosper, Rainy Day Prosper

“I started [Scoop Marketplace] because we started to make these changes as a family… becoming more conscious consumers and being aware of what we were throwing away.”

– Stephanie Lentz, Scoop Marketplace

“Last year when I first pitched, I was so nervous I could not remember what I said… and since then, I’ve gotten paid to speak at least 5 different times. I think going through the program was really helpful because I’m more comfortable in front of people.”

– Chevon Powell, Golden Bricks Events

“There are so many things that helped me [at Ventures] – the workshops, and the employees. The staff made me feel really confident. I feel a lot of support from them.”

– Judith Estrada Echegaray,
GlamSnaps Photo Booth

The final event will be action-packed, including presentations from our Executive Director, Beto Yarce; the founder of our organization (originally known as Washington CASH) in 1995, Peter Rose; and remarks from Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel-prize winning economist that sparked the microfinance in Bangladesh nearly forty years ago.

Because this is a virtual event, there are no limits to the number of attendees. If you’re passionate about Ventures and our mission, please feel free to share the registration link with friends, family and colleagues in Seattle or around the world.

Our clients represent some of the most vulnerable to the impacts of the public health emergency and the ensuing economic impacts. That’s why we are moving forward with a virtual event.

If you are inspired to support our entrepreneurs, our suggested donation for InnoVentures 2020 is $250 or a monthly gift of $25 in honor of Ventures 25th anniversary. We’re also excited to share that gifts of more than $50 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $15,000 thanks to a generous Ventures supporter. Donate now and we will look forward to seeing you next week!

We’ve also brought together six fantastic local business owners, leaders, and advocates to be our judges for InnoVentures 2020.

Meet the Judges

Our volunteer judges have seen InnoVentures contestants’ pitches evolve over the past few months. Each round of the competition, judges provide constructive, specific feedback to each entrepreneur so that their pitch becomes more compelling. Judges score in five areas: customer need and market demand, innovation, vision, feasibility, and presentation.

Roz Edison – Marination Mobile/Six Seven

Roz is the co-founder and COO of Marination. Roz is volunteering at Ventures to support a terrific organization that serves a real need in our community and economy. Often called the “Director of Many Things”, Roz makes sure that the operations of Marination run smoothly across all locations. The biggest challenges Roz has faced as a business owner has been keeping up with rapidly escalating costs of owning a business in Seattle. They have improved the internal operations of Marination and have looked for ways to grow the top line.

Matthew Hill – Laird Norton

Matthew Hill joined Laird Norton Company in 2015 and is currently Manager, Corporate Development.  Matthew works on a variety of assignments including acquisitions, debt and equity financings, long-term strategic planning and portfolio monitoring. Prior to joining Laird Norton Company, Matthew was a Senior Associate in the Valuation Services Group at Grant Thornton, LLP. After assisting with a networking event at Ventures, Matthew was inspired by the determination and ingenuity of the entrepreneurs. It provided him with the opportunity to directly impact and assist local entrepreneurs with his business background.

Pedro Gómez – Seattle Office of Economic Development

Pedro Gomez is the Director of Small Business Development at the City of Seattle. He leads a team of small business experts responsible for supporting small businesses in Seattle. Previously, Pedro served as the Boards and Commissions Manager for the Mayor of Seattle. He is the founder of the Washington Latinx Voters Alliance, a nonprofit that seeks to unleash the electoral power of the Latinx community and is co-owner of Hola Seattle, the only tourist company that offers tours of the Seattle region in Spanish and Portuguese.

Yessy Aguilar – Celeste Bridal Boutique

Yesenia is the co-owner of Celeste Bridal Boutique. Her business is located in Lynnwood, Burien, and most recently Lakewood. She has graduated from BDT in 2009 and has completed her degree in financial management. She is also the founder of Quinceanera Dream Fashion Show. Celeste Bridal Boutique has also been the proud sponsor for the Latina Miss Washington and Miss Washington USA.  Yesenia is very involved in the Latino Community supporting that supports women

Valentina Vitols – Seattle Women’s Impact Fund

Valentina is an angel investor and an attorney. A native of Venezuela, she is a member of Pipeline Angels, Next Wave Ventures, and Portfolia. Valentina is volunteering at InnoVentures to share what she has learned as an angel investor throughout the years. She enjoys supporting entrepreneurs and helping them access resources and networking opportunities. She worked as a political consultant in Caracas and ran as a candidate for the Latin American Parliament and the House of Representatives of the State of Miranda. Valentina delights in and is excited to be able to make a serious business out of something good as an angel investor focused on supporting female entrepreneurs in the social impact space.

Watch InnoVentures on March 26th and see if you can guess which entrepreneurs’ pitch gets the highest score from our judges. First place winner takes home $5,000 and all of our finalists walk away with cash prizes to help support their business!

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