THE PITCH biz competition returns for second year

THE PITCH, a collaborative business plan competition for minority and women owned enterprises (MWBE), will return to the Buffalo Science Museum for its second year on September 28. The competition, which is the first of its kind in Western New York, will give three local entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their business plans for a chance to win $50,000 in funding.

This year’s PITCH, though, comes with a couple of changes.

“Last year there was a wide range of applicants where we compared high-growth start-ups with, say, landscaping businesses,” explains Sherri Falck, assistant vice president at Excelsior Growth Fund, a signature sponsor of THE PITCH. “But this year we are creating two categories to level the playing field.”

One category will consist of “growth companies,” or industry leaders with a stronger level of growth than others, significant cash flow, and innovative solution for consumers. Examples include tech start-ups.

The other category is for “main street businesses,” a term designated for small businesses that are focused on hiring initiatives. Examples include everyday local restaurants, professional service providers, and retailers.

Each category will award one grand prize of $15,000 and one runner-up prize of $5,000. An additional prize of $10,000 will be awarded to the winner of the Five Star Bank People’s Choice Minority and Women Small Business Award. The total winnings of $50,000 are more than double the amount of last year’s sum.

As a bonus, winners and finalists will be eligible to participate in Allstate’s Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs Program.

The competition is only open to minority and women owned businesses in Erie County. While there are certain state and county certifications needed to qualify as an MWBE, such certifications are not required to participate in the competition. Participating businesses must have been open for at least one fiscal year and have had no more than 50 full-time employees.

The application deadline is Friday, September 1, 2017, at 12 pm EDT. Interested parties can submit their applications at

What exactly should business owners be prepared to provide? “The application itself is centered around their opportunities for growth,” Falck says. “We’ll be looking at how the awards might help to fund that growth or expand their product line.”

Falck says Excelsior Growth Fund’s goal is to review 100 applicants. Once the application period closes, a selection committee will narrow down the top three applicants in each category.

“Then at the Buffalo Museum of Science, they will do a 10-minute pitch in front of a panel of judges that will judge them in live time and announce who the grand-prize winner and runners-up are.”

THE PITCH is sponsored by NYBDC/Excelsior Growth Fund and supported by KeyBank, ECIDA, Kaleida Health, Foit-Albert Associates, and Iroquois Construction Services.

“We have supported and been a part of women and minority owned business competitions in other cities and different markets that we serve. As a non-profit organization that seeks to give those communities access to capital and business resources, this is a mission-based initiative that is right in our wheelhouse,” Falck says.

Local start-up darling, 43North, is also teaming up with participating organizations to help keep THE PITCH going strong.

“We’re dedicated to the small business community, and that’s inclusive of women and minority entrepreneurs,” says Falck. “We are working to build healthy and diverse communities that contribute to the vitality of Buffalo.”

According to Falck, THE PITCH initiative encourages diverse communities to come out and pitch their business, thereby shining a light on MWBE in Buffalo.

“Whether they’re a start-up or they’ve been doing it for years,” she says, “it gives them a platform on which to stand and be recognized.”

Interested businesses can submit their application at this link: 

Read more articles by James A. Colombo III.

James A. Colombo III is the grant developer & corporate content writer at Bak USA, a social enterprise that builds mobile computers in downtown Buffalo, New York. Lover of Labatt Blue, Elmo's wings, and live music, James is a Buffalonian through and through. He lives on the city's Lower West Side with his girlfriend, Mary.
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