Village Launch Pitch Competition spotlights emerging entrepreneurs
The winners of the very first Village Launch Pitch Competition are united by their experience in Greenville’s core entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The participants in the pitch competition are all graduates of either Nasha Loana non-profit organization that provides microloans to underfunded entrepreneurs, or Village Launch Business Entrepreneur Academya 10-week cohort program that equips entrepreneurs from all walks of life.
The winners of the pitch competition, a collaboration between Village launch and St. Matthew UMCwon cash prizes, in addition to affirmation from their peers in the local business community.
$10,000 Greenville St. Matthew UMC Scholarship Winner
CAIRS Shoes is the brainchild of Lashonn Edmunds, who wanted to create fashionable shoes that didn’t sacrifice comfort for style, especially for those with various foot conditions. From pregnant women to people with diabetes, the shoes offer “true stretch” technology that stretches in four directions, allowing for increased flexibility in a sleek design.
The products are particularly suitable for people with lymphedema, a condition which causes fluid to build up in the soft tissues of the body when the lymphatic system is damaged or blocked, including the feet, making stylish shoes downright impossible.
Edmunds hopes to change that, and she is currently working alongside michelin to find materials for his creations.
“Our slogan is, ‘It shouldn’t hurt to look this good,'” Edmunds said.
Winner of the SC Community Loan Fund $5,000 grant
Jennifer Spears was a massage therapist for years when COVID-19 forced her to curb. After returning to school to study herbalism, she opens her new mobile tea bar, The African VioletLater this year.
“When people try my tea, they realize how delicious it is,” adds Spears. “I intentionally blend my teas this way to surprise people and change their assumptions.”
The African Violet mobile tea bar aims to fill a gap in the beverage market, particularly at events offering coffee, sugary soft drinks and alcohol.
“I have the ability to really customize tea for people and blend it just for them,” Spears said.
Winner of $2,500 grant from SC Community Loan Fund
Although there are many personal training programs for physical health today, Shayla Sadler realized that there was one piece missing in the market: personal training for the mind.
Her mindset coaching program, Empowered for Purpose, aims to change that by creating a private online community that combines practical lessons, community support and mindset training for women.
“You hear people say all the time, ‘If you change your mindset, you change your life.’ But you don’t always know what that means and what you’re supposed to do,” Sadler said.
Winner of the SC Community Loan Fund $15,000 grant
ReShay Drummond and his business partner Kevin Simpson both have years of experience in the armed forces – Simpson as an Iraq War veteran, Drummund as a Marine Corps veteran.
Now they are using that experience to provide gun training, with a focus on creating an environment for black women who may be new to gun ownership.
“So many of these gun owners don’t know enough about safety,” Drummond said. “We need to change that by delivering safety training in a way that creates a sense of community so people are engaged and feel comfortable learning.”
Target One Firearm Training also educates gun owners on the rules and regulations pertaining to gun ownership.
Winner of $1,000 grant from SC Community Loan Fund
Sabrina Reeder spent years away from her hometown of Greenville, and when she returned she realized there was so much more to discover.
That’s why she created a new way to replicate the sense of discovery for long-time residents and visitors alike.
Great Greenville Discovery is an event program that operates like Greenville’s “Amazing Race”, combining sightseeing adventure with support for local businesses.
“It helps businesses increase their visibility while creating that sense of play that people might lose when they live in a city for so long without realizing how special it is,” Reeder said.