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St. Pete Pitch Night shines a light on local female entrepreneurs

Mark Parker



Click the play triangle above to watch the winning pitch.

Five local female entrepreneurs took the stage at 3 Daughters Brewing Wednesday night to showcase their businesses and to present a panel of judges their best pitches in the hopes of walking away with a $5,000 prize.

The Greenhouse held its final St. Pete Pitch Night of 2021 in front of a large and festive crowd. The event focuses on showcasing, elevating, and seeding community-based startups that fill a gap in a city that fosters a strong entrepreneurial community. Esther Matthews, founder of All Administrative Solutions and a graduate of the Greenhouse’s Entrepreneurial Academy, was the master of ceremonies.

The five contestants each had six minutes to give their best pitch, followed by a 10-minute question and answer session with a panel of four local business leaders. Mayor Rick Kriseman gave opening remarks, telling the crowd that the city’s small businesses help to make St. Pete a special place.

“You can go to city’s all over the country, but you don’t find the businesses that you see here in St. Pete,” said Kriseman. “We’ve got some folks back here who you are going to hear from, and they are bold; they are visionary, they are courageous, they are passionate, and they are pursuing their dream.

“I don’t think it gets any better than that.”

While all five females exemplified the qualities that Kriseman spoke of, only one could claim the $5,000 top prize: April Caldwell, co-founder and CEO of fayVen.

The fayVen mission is to provide mobile vendors and artisans the opportunity to choose venues according to the customer base they hope to reach. Venue owners generate revenue by temporarily renting out unused space to mobile vendors, and fayVen earns revenue by taking a percentage of the booking fee the venue receives.

Caldwell has a partnership with Embarq Collective, among many other local organizations, and described the veteran-owned business as an Airbnb for vendors.

“At fayVen, we believe that all small business owners should have access to quality retail space, no matter what stage they’re in,” said Caldwell.

The panel was impressed with Caldwell’s passion, partnerships and presentation, and one judge said she was interested in investing personally. The last to present, Caldwell was elated and brimmed with emotion as she received her $5,000 check.

In addition to the grand prize, the event also featured an audience choice award. Those in attendance had the opportunity to vote on their favorite pitch via text message, and Hillary Van Dyke, co-founder of Green Book of Tampa Bay, took home the $500 award. 

Green Book of Tampa Bay is a Black-owned business directory that helps Tampa Bay residents intentionally “put their green into Black.” Van Dyke said she and her partner are educators, and they were dismayed by some situations their students encountered. Van Dyke thought that if they boosted Black businesses and increased the businesses’ economic vitality, it could impact the lives of their students and the surrounding community.

“Even though we live in the Sunshine City, we felt that the sun does not shine on everyone,” said Van Dyke.

Green Book of Tampa Bay lists its Black-owned businesses for free. It also provides information on historical and cultural sites, Black artists, and is in the process of creating additional features such as a job board.

Melody Mendoza-Auslander, founder of La Betri by Fili – Pina, showcased her innovative leggings with a built-in fanny pack to store essentials. Mendoza-Auslander aims to tap into the lucrative athleisure wear industry, which she said is now worth $350 billion. In addition to the functionality of the “joey pouch,” her leggings are biodegradable and made in America.

“You’re not only buying ecofriendly sustainable fabric, but you’re also supporting U.S. manufacturing,” said Mendoza-Aulander.

Tamia Kennedy highlighted the multimedia production company she founded, Black On The Scene. Kennedy created Black On the Scene after finding it difficult to obtain jobs in the film industry. Her company develops content for film, television and digital platforms. She also curates production teams specifically to meet her client’s needs. Black On the Scene also guarantees job opportunities for Black creatives through every stage of the production process.

“We are so excited for the future of Black On The Scene, and we cannot wait to make our mark here in Tampa Bay and change the world – one production at a time,” said Kennedy.

Rounding out the list of presenters was Heather Hamar, founder of The Mar St. Pete. The Mar is a performing arts studio and incubator for creators, dancers, actors and musicians. They offer space to rehearse, workshop, record, perform and collaborate. The Mar also features a floating dance floor and provides its creatives with lighting and sound equipment. Providing necessary equipment alleviates the cost of renting for these up-and-coming artists.

“We’re all about working together,” said Hamar. “Coming together with like-minded individuals, bouncing ideas off one another, learning from each other’s mistakes, and then being able to go out and make something amazing.”





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1 Comment

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    Velva Lee Heraty aka Dream Momma

    December 3, 2021at8:09 pm

    Thanks Mark Parker for a well written info-packed article on the three things I value, women entrepreneurs, community, and creativity. I also want to congratulate all the young women involved. Their ideas are impressive!

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