• Schyler Cole

Meet the Winners and Judges of the Birmingham Pitch Competition!

Updated: Mar 19

The Judges


Beatrice Dixon

Co-founder, CEO The Honey Pot Co

Fun Fact: She’s one of the most hyper-present people you’ve ever met!



Mashonda Taylor

Executive Director, Woodlawn Foundation

Fun Fact: Mashonda was a part of the team that recruited Slutty Vegan and Ms.Pinky Cole to the Woodlawn community! (The first brick and mortar outside of Georgia!)



Vanessa Simmons

Founder, Creative Director Pastry Footwear, Glitter and Lace, and Sugar Me

Fun Fact: Vanessa went to St. John’s University and double majored in Business and Communications.


Kristin Farmer ⁣- 1st Place Winner


Curly Contessa

Representing a noble Black woman with natural tresses by offering a giftware line that celebrates the beauty of Black women and gives naturalistas across the globe a cute and trendy way to celebrate one another.

www.curlycontessa.com

@curlycontessa


“I’m a brown girl that found a way to overcome personal challenges through riveting illustrations.”

After Kristin Farmer was diagnosed with bipolar II and a borderline personality disorder, she found a way to celebrate her wins by creating a home foods and giftware line celebrating the beauty of Black women. Kristin founded Curly Contessa also in response to a lack of representation in skin tones and hair texture in the home goods and giftware market. Even though African Americans make up 15% of the US population and Black female purchasing power is estimated to be $1.5 trillion in 2021, Black brands are severely underrepresented on the market and store shelves.


To tackle this problem and celebrate Black women, Curly Contessa offers a prideful shopping experience with a diverse product line ranging from gift wrap to drinkware. Their business model involves B2C, B2B, and commission-based components. In addition to leading and developing her business, Kristin is also the designer of all of Curly Contessa’s art, using watercolor and digital mediums.


This coming year, Curly Contessa looks forward to continuing to build brand awareness, increase marketing and sales, further business development, and expand operations. Kristin also aims to develop more glassware, expand their Christmas line, and expand the product line to include even more high-end items.


Feedback from Bea: Simplify! During her pitch, Kristin mentioned wanting to secure a building for her product and logistics. However, Bea suggested continuing to rent a cheap space for her product instead of purchasing a space for storage.




Tracey Kennedy ⁣- 2nd Place Winner


California Country Organics

A multi-function everyday body care line using 100% raw, organic, unrefined, natural ingredients to help you Love Yourself Organically.

www.calibamaorganics.com/

@calibamacco


“Redefine life. Redefine love. Redefine self.”

After Tracey Kennedy’s son developed eczema at 10 months old, she applied her fine-dining chef skills and love of food to body care. “If I can make a recipe to heal somebody from the inside, I can make a recipe to heal somebody from the outside.” After about two years of work and research, she created Skin Soldier, which helped to minimize her son’s eczema. Years later, thanks to a Facebook post, people were asking her to take their money for her amazing product! California Country Organics now includes a range of products including Funk Free Pits Deodorant which aids in a variety of issues including ingrown hairs, armpit stains, and rubbing thighs. The most popular product is Kitchen Conditioner, a leave-in/rinse-out conditioner that can be used on any hair type. All products are toxin-free, infant to elderly safe, and seizure safe.


Tracey is a mother, chef, entrepreneur, and volunteer redefining what body care looks like and her own relationship with body care. In her first eight months of business, she saw a 50x return on advertising expenses due to her brand’s strong network effects. Further, California Country Organics beats competitors on price point and ingredient quality.


This year Tracey aims to expand her manufacturing space, increase staff, expand advertising, and bring job opportunities to her community in Magic City. Tracey has a big vision for the future and is set to revolutionize not just body care, but a wonderful combination of food, retail, culture, and identity!


Feedback from Bea: Raise more money! Tracey’s strong revenues put her in a strong position to increase her fundraising ask.



Domonique Townsend - 3rd Place Winner


We Optimize Work

Supporting working moms in their personal aspirations without downshifting in their careers or business.

www.weoptimizework.com

@weoptimizework


Working moms are generally expected to manage both their careers and their families successfully. However, while these women are the closest beings we have to a real-life Superwoman, women are leaving the workforce at alarming rates to ensure their families are supported. This has led to an estimated 50% increase in the workplace gender gap!


To tackle these issues, Dominique founded We Optimize Work, a D2C platform providing on-demand support, smart capacity tracker, and membership cohort that meets the needs of working moms.


“I am the face of the person I seek to help!” Dominique is a working mom of four, industrial engineer, Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, and author of four books written for working moms. She is an alum of Tennessee Tech University and the Tuck School at Dartmouth and has over eleven years of corporate experience. Through her experience and research Dominique has identified three main pain points working moms face:

  1. Limited D2C resources for ongoing career and life support for working moms,

  2. Workplace training does not account for demands for working mom,

  3. Continued lack of prioritization of the needs of working moms.

We Optimize Work offers a range of support options for working moms and is the only firm in this space to employ a design thinking approach, on-demand support with experts, and a smart capacity tracker. Currently, We Optimize Work offers a D2C product; however, in Q4 2021 they plan to launch a B2B product for corporations.


Feedback from Vanessa: [We Optimize Work] is providing a solution to a problem, which is the start of a great business.


Congratulations to all winners and founders of the BGV x Kim Crawford pitch competition!


We are inspired by each of these women. We know that it is possible to be a Black woman founder and have the support you need to build a successful company. These women represent the future of entrepreneurship in their communities as they continue to have a positive impact on the world.


BGV thanks the community, our founders, sponsorships, and partnerships that work with us to break down barriers so more Black and Brown founders can remain visible in the marketplace. Together we are creating access to capital and education for our Black and Brown founders to continue to grow and sustain their businesses.


Subscribe to the Digital Orange Juice for juicy ideas and the people who fund them. You can find out about our next pitch competitions here. Also, be sure to join our new community BGV Connect!




Schyler Cole is the founder and host of VCedia, a podcast dedicated to the policy, people, and practices shaping investment in and innovation for a better world. She graduated from Stanford with a BA in Economics and is currently pursuing her Masters of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo, focusing on strategies for inclusive investment and innovation ecosystems.

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