Empowering People
& Revitalizing the Community

Atlantic City's Small Business Academy Pitch Competition 2021

Posted on 6/25/2021 by EDTP Coordinator in LAEDA News

Atlantic City, NJ- LAEDA in partnership with the Atlantic City Mayor's Office hosted its first nine-week program. Men and women from the Atlantic county area joined to gain knowledge on how to effectively start and grow their respective businesses. The series titled, Atlantic City Small Business Academy, began on March 24th with the “ABC’s of Starting a Small Business” as a way to inform budding and existing entrepreneurs about what it takes to succeed in a competitive market. The series ended with a pitch competition where participants pitched concepts to a panel of judges for a chance to secure resources to grow their business. Mayor Marty Small began the event with these words, “We wanted to better prepare the residents of Atlantic City to become entrepreneurs so we started this process 19 months ago and tonight we have many ambitious entrepreneurs in this room ready to talk about their businesses!” The evening continued with the judges listening to presentations from entrepreneurs about the valuable impacts their businesses will bring to the residents of Atlantic City.

The room was filled with twenty-one entrepreneurs with businesses in different stages of their entrepreneurial journey for a discussion filled with where the business stands today as well as the resources and assistance each entrepreneur needs to not only start but also keep his or her business moving forward. These business concepts were expressed before a panel of three judges including Raymond Lamboy, President and Chief Executive Officer of LAEDA.

Joi was the first participant to speak about her electric scooter business. “Electric scooters are time saving and Atlantic City needs this especially for tourists, which will increase cash sales, boost tourism and increase businesses and their revenues so why not scoot into this idea?” explains Joi.

Next, we had Monica come to the front and pitch her business. She has 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry and 10 years of event planning and management experience. She is an event planner and owns, Make My Day Beautiful LLC, “It is a one stop shop for my clients' needs and wants; we want to take the worry and stress out of your day and make your day beautiful,” states Monica.

The entrepreneurs in the room had many ideas representing different industries but the common goal was to help the residents in city. “Because I see homelessness so often, we will use our cooking to encourage healthy eating for residents by using healthy grains. Our goal is to offer food where every mouthful is delightful,” discloses Stephanie who seeks to own a restaurant.

“Family and essential workers gave me the push to take my business forward and take it from Ray’s Place to Ray’s Seafood Saturday,” expressed LeRae Davis. Lerae specializes in seafood dishes including seafood mac n’ cheese.

Before the next participant came up to share their business idea, one of the judges added a few valuable words, “Starting your business from home saves you overhead costs and benefits you in hours so sometimes starting your business from home is the best place to be!”

Our next participant, Christina, owns a Dance Studio where she teaches the art of dancing and expression. "This would the first African-American owned Dance Studio in Atlantic City. My studio describes what happens when you combine enriching art with dance experience. We also offer classes and workshops that teach multicultural dance styles,” Christina explained. She finished her pitch with a really catchy phrase that speaks about how dance is an art in which people can be creative and express themselves, “Opportunity dances with people already on the floor so we are waiting on the dance floor so can we have this dance?”

Aside from expressions it is important that people feel comfortable in their own skin and having a safe warm and clean place such as a Laundromat is vital for this. India has a business plan for a Laundromat classed Community Laundry (Wash & Fold), which will have free services for the elderly and disabled.

“When a person has clean clothes it is equivalent to having a brand new outfit and it is an essential business because it is serious to go around and be confident in your skin,” India illustrates.

Shirley, owner of Slang Wings was next to pitch her food business. "Food is such a vital part of life that makes people feel good and have the energy needed to perform all the tasks and responsibilities on a daily basis. Our wings are different flavors and we service our communities with them. Come taste the love we put love in everything we do and we would love to hear what you think of our food, ” Shirley stated. 

Then Aliyah of Aliyah Lynn pitched her Women’s Clothing and Accessories bsuiness. "Let’s face it, as business owners we wear a lot of hats and have a lot of responsibilities to handle, not to mention all the essential day-to-day tasks we have to handle and complete. Aliyah stated. “I never knew creating my own line and brand could be possible until I started marketing. My products are for every woman especially those on the go because women do not like to have their hands tied up when they go out so I freed them up with my wearable fashion, "she continued.

Pitchers continued speaking about what they needed for their businesses to take off and succeed, why their business is beneficial, and how and why it will be successful.  They all spoke about learning to do things that will not only help their businesses but also the communities and individuals around it.

Edward, who has a photography and marketing business, continued this sentiment. “My vision is to offer digital images and marketing services. By marketing Atlantic City and businesses in it, we will create jobs for kids and we will train them.” Edward provides photos of services and talks about how he turns the clients vision into reality. He also mentioned how he can play a significant part in getting that marketing traffic for a person's small business one click at a time.

Participant Sakiyah wants to start Looney Tunes Learning Center for Children. Sakiyah believes that children are our future and taking care of them now is more essential than ever. She expressed, “The learning center will change the lives of children for the better…building to excel in their future is what we are all about.”

Just like we invest in our business and our clients, it is important for business owners to also invest in other areas and credit is one of them. Good credit is an essential necessity for adults and it can even determine whether or not an entrepreneur can open up his or her business. Viana owns Capital V, which is a business in Financial Literacy. Her goal is to “repair our clients credit and also provide branding and marketing that will help them expand their business.”

Our next participant, Erica M. does catering and she wants to run a food truck one day, “We feed churches and people who are homeless so I will need a truck, employees and suppliers in order to start.”

Later, Luis filled the room with the discussion of taking an active role in the sensitive problems of the community around his business, The Dominican Home/ La Casa Dominicana of NJ. “The purpose of the organization is to foster the involvement and interest of all communities in New Jersey in civic, professional, social, educational, charitable and preservation.” As a business owner it is essential to look after the community and build value in the eyes of its residents so that way the business grows and succeeds.

After we learned about the ESL programs and classes for communication from Luis we had the mother and daughter team for their lemonade juice business. “We hope to put your thirst first and that is why we have different venues and pop up shops which offer different lemonade flavors,” Edna.

In this world we all need support at one point or another. We also need good leadership with values and this is exactly what Rufina offers with her small business services. Rufina explained that "The Society Group is an innovative consulting agency that provides personal and business consulting with resources to take your next step and get you to your next level.”

Afterward, the room welcomed the team of Mary and Nicole who provide adult career services through their company, Advocacy Navigators, LLC. “We understand a person's recovery from substance abuse and we would like to offer them services and resources to help them recover and cope,” explained Mary Beth and Nicole. 

Taking care of our personal health is just as important as environmental health. Keeping the places where we sit, eat, work and reside clean and healthy is important. Entrepreneur Nafessa spoke about her background in Janitorial and shared her story about how she is a full time student and works with other cleaning services while she runs her own business with her mom. “I want to do event cleaning and have jobs for the children of Atlantic City because we do not have opportunities like this for children in Atlantic City anymore and learning entrepreneurship and its concepts young are significant for the youth population,” describes Nafessa.

Since celebrating life’s special moments is one of the most significant ingredients in the lives of almost anyone, it is important to take a break and celebrate those moments. Brandi, owner of KB Party Collections pitched about doing just that with her business and how she started this business with friends and now is looking to expand into a location. “I create visual event experiences for all ages and also rent my equipment for anything that you might need for your special day,” Brandi explains about the business.

While the room was filled with talks of what will be your ask and what will you do with it, another participant and entrepreneur, Shaniece spoke about her background in administrative services. She pitched her business, Parenthesis Consulting, which offers small businesses service solutions for everything from administrative services to marketing. Her goal was helping businesses to grow by providing them with solutions to their challenges, struggles and/ or problems. “We provide services for multicultural businesses and we provide translations for different languages as well,” stated Shaniece, “Parenthesis are brackets and we fill all the spots in between with everything you need to succeed and survive.”

Our last entrepreneur for the night was Donna M. who will offer Youth Services in the community. She spoke about creating a Child Care Facility particularly for children with special needs. She has 15 years of experience working in the school system for kids with disabilities and she is currently running her business from her house right now. “I provide parents with resources, where to go for the type of services parents will need for their kids because I want to help parents encourage their kids to lead valuable and successful lives,” expressed Donna M.

After all the participants pitched their businesses, it was time for the judges to give feedback. “Wherever your dreams take you is where you invest your money,” Judge Roxanne explained, “Even when you make it where you want to go there will always be ups and downs because that is life, therefore be a dreamer because dreams tell you where you want to go and creative a real plan with numbers, how you will make money since this is how your business will survive."

Judge Michael added, “I was where all of you were once and I struck out on my own and opened my own law firm. The first questions that came to mind is how will I make that phone ring? Who will call me? How will they seek my services? These the questions I needed to be prepared to answer,” he stated.  He also left us with valuable words: Seek and embrace that opportunity, work hard, and believe in yourself. Also make sure to keep thriving, keep on working on your dream and do not let anyone take it away from you.

Judge Ray gave final words of encouragement “You all are ready to get your rocket off the ground and launch your business... With LAEDA, it’s services, and staff, you can do it. He continued, "we also want to thank you for putting your hopes and dreams into our hands... We will work to continue this relationship” 

The night ended by announcing the 1st, 2nd and third place winners in the pitch competition while everyone had the time to network and make connections. They were encouraged to use this momentum as the resources, knowledge and mentorship to not only launch into the world of business.

Do you want to launch a business that can not only take off but skyrocket? Reach out to LAEDA because we are here to HELP as Much or Little as you want. LAEDA is available remotely through email, phone, and/ or video conferencing. Please call us at (856) 338-1177 or visit our website at www.laeda.com to learn more about our programs, services, and small business resources.