Entrepreneurs Conference: Where Are They Now? The $10,000 Elevator Pitch Competition Winners

Each year, a group of select entrepreneurs bring their best 60-second pitch and go head-to-head at the Black Enterprise Elevator Pitch.

Atkins won over judges with her pitch about her all turkey catering business

Shay Atkins won over the judges at the 2010 Elevator Pitch Competition to establish her Just Turkey catering company. Atkins was among 100 people who submitted a video telling about their business ideas. “I made it to the top 10 out of a 100. Out of the top 10, I made it to the top three and then I made it to the number one spot,” recalls the certified caterer and  former district sales manager for Frito-Lay. Walking away as the first place winner, Atkins used her $10,000 cash prize to acquire insurance, permits, and all  legal aspects required to serve food to the public. The goal was to get the catering business up and to build from there.

Today, Chef Atkins is the CEO of Creative Turkey Cuisine (www.creativeturkeycuisine.com), which has expanded beyond catering parties and events in and around Chicago. Atkins now operates an exclusive turkey and vegetarian restaurant that ships its signature gourmet fried turkeys all across the country. You won’t find any beef, pork, chicken or seafood on the menu—just turkey. In fact, Creative Turkey offers 15 flavors of its popular fried turkey from Jerk BBQ to Thai Coconut Curry to Peaches & Rum.

Creative Turkey Cuisine appeals to the current growing demand in the country for health conscious food choices that still taste great. Atkins says, that about “75% of America wants to eat healthier meals, but they don’t want it to taste like it.”

An advocate for fashionable tall women, Lameka Weeks won $3,500 to help roll out her Height Goddess clothing line

The 2010 Elevator Pitch’s second place winner Lameka Weeks is an advocate for tall women in the fashion and retail industry. That is the inspiration behind her Dallas-based Height Goddess (HG) company (www.heightgoddess.com), a line of stylish apparel designed with height in mind—women 5’9” and taller. Weeks used her $3,500 cash prize to produce her fall line that year as well as to gain brand presence for direct-to-consumer efforts and to get into local retail boutiques.

Before launching Height Goddess in 2007, Weeks worked in corporate sales for companies like Black & Decker, Colgate, and Michelin. The six-foot-one former college basketball player says she wanted to create the kind of beautiful garments that she would want wear herself. There have been very few stylish options for tall and curvy women available off the rack, says Weeks, noting that retailers often have clothes that aren’t long enough, age appropriate or flattering. Taller women like herself were tired of being forced to settle on ill-fitted clothes or to wear men’s attire. With no formal fashion training, Weeks worked with designers and industry professionals to develop her premium denim line.

She still retains control of every aspect of her business. HG designs, manufacturers, and retails every stitch of the line that has now grown to include dress pants, tops, T-shirts, and dresses. HG is sold in boutiques throughout Texas and California. But Weeks is on the lookout for boutiques all across the country that are interested carrying her line.

ACCELERATE YOUR BUSINESS! Register NOW for the 2013 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo hosted by Nationwide, May 15-18, at the Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Be sure to enter our Elevator Pitch Competition to qualify for the $10,000 grand prize. To register and find out more, visit www.blackenterprise.com/ec/ <http://www.blackenterprise.com/ec/>

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