March 6, 2023
Michigan Women Forward (MWF) will host the Virtual Mid-Michigan WomanUp & Pitch Competition on Thursday, March 9. The event features ten women entrepreneurs presenting their business plans to a panel of business leaders and an audience of community leaders, business owners and potential investors. The event will be broadcast virtually from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.
“WomanUp & Pitch is an opportunity for Michigan women to take the next step towards their future,” said Carolyn Cassin, MWF president and CEO. “This competition is a game changer for the participants. Not only will the top entrepreneurs receive cash prizes to support their business, but they will further develop their presentation skills and have access to the knowledge of expert judges.”
Forty total statewide finalists will participate in this year’s competition: Ten competitors will compete in the four competitions: Ten from West Michigan, Mid-Michigan, and Southeast Michigan, as well as a special food business competition. Each is divided into established and startup categories. Winners in each category and from each region will earn cash prizes: two $10,000 first prizes per location; two $5,000 second prizes per location; two $2,500 third prizes per location; and an audience choice winner of $1,000 per location.
The WomanUp & Pitch event is made possible by generous sponsorship from the Consumers Energy Foundation. The Foundation has contributed over $1.4 million to support MWF since 2015, including $144,000 for this year’s competitions.
“The Consumers Energy Foundation believes Michigan women have the power to move our economy forward,” said Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation. “This year, we’ve upped the ante by financially rewarding 40 entrepreneurs across Michigan. We hope Michigan Women Forward’s WomanUp & Pitch Competitions will help these women launch or expand their businesses, and power Michigan’s economy.”
2023 Mid-Michigan judges are Brandee Cooke-Brown, Executive Director, 100K Ideas, Stephanie Peoples, Business Relationship Manager & AVP, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Tony Willis, Chief Equity Development Officer, LEAP.
Prior to the pitch competition, MWF paired each finalist with a coach and mentor. The coaches have been working with the finalists to develop their comprehensive business plan and practice their pitches.
The Mid-Michigan established and startup category finalists are:
- Christina Liedtke of ASTOURI – Leverages iconic city artwork on women’s apparel and accessories to empower women to wear their community story in style;
- Vinita Parekh of Karma Wellness Kitchen – Manufactures gluten free, plant based superfood snacks and one-pot, easy to cook plant based meal kits;
- Megan Dowell of Knowing Your Home – Empowers women and homeowners to tackle their own home maintenance;
- Kristan Maxie of KVMFX – Provides an educational platform where aspiring Foreign Exchange traders can learn from interacting directly with profitable traders with experience;
- Kimberly Lavon of Mint Maven – A bespoke fundraising agency for the arts;
- Calebria Webb of Music with Calebria – A boutique vocal coaching business that services singers and related performing artists;
- Kelly Bailey of Raw Oats – A female owned skincare business focused on consciously created products with a mission to become more sustainable;
- Yolanda Anderson of Sew Sew Crafted – Your one-stop shop for custom sewing and crafting items, where representation and sustainability matters;
- Shawny Neubecker of TRU Heart Photo – Empowering community voice, connection and culture through medium of photography;
- Josnelly Aponte of Zero Bar & Lounge – A mobile service of beverages with 0% alcohol, but 100% of the fun;
All virtual pitches will be broadcast LIVE on Michigan Women Forward’s Facebook and YouTube pages. The general public is invited to attend the event and vote for the Audience Choice winner. Individuals can register via the MWF website.
In addition to Mid-Michigan, the West Michigan virtual pitch competition will be held on Thursday, March 2, the Southeast Michigan virtual pitch competition on Thursday, March 23, and the statewide food pitch competition on Thursday, March 30 in Southfield, MI. For more information visit www.miwf.org or www.ConsumersEnergy.com/foundation.