African American Festival: BE Empowerment Zone – Money, Love, and Inspiration

African American Festival: BE Empowerment Zone – Money, Love, and Inspiration

Saturday, June 20th, kicked off the African American Festival at the Camden Yards Sports & Entertainment Complex in Baltimore, Maryland, and boy were festival-goers in for a treat. From the many vendors and entertainers, to the extended variety of food, to the spirit and merriment of the people of Baltimore, the African American Festival lived up to its intention and wholeheartedly celebrated life, music, and culture.

[Related: Cadillac Shows Support For Young Black Filmmakers At ABFF]

There was so much to take in at AAF, and the Black Enterprise Empowerment Zone was a main attraction. The BE Empowerment Zone proved to exceed expectations with informative and entertaining conversations on love, wealth, success, and of course, business.

The empowering in the zone, started with the 2nd Annual Black Enterprise Best Pitch Competition, where three talented and innovative entrepreneurs pitched to the panel of judges with hopes of winning a grand prize of 2 registrations to the 2016 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit, plus hotel and accommodations. Hosted by Black Enterprise SVP/Executive Editor-at-Large, Alfred Edmond, the Best Pitch Competition introduced new tools and ideas, so simple and on-point, that it left you wondering why you hadn’t thought of that sooner.

First up, Cut Buddy, brought to you by Joshua Esnard. Cut Buddy is essentially a pre-cut stencil that allows individuals to edge up, tape, or line up their hair themselves. No more waiting for a barber. No more untapered lines. No more barber costs. According to Esnard, the Cut Buddy was born of necessity and “with necessity there is innovation.”

Next, was a pitch for customary, printed African American art with Dyna Smiles by Daveia Odoi. Dyna Smiles began in 2009 and displayed portrayals of beautiful black people on stationary, products, phone cases, bags, cups, etc. Odoi is looking to see Dyna Smiles in your local Target, Walgreens, or places of the sort, within the upcoming years. According to Odoi, Dyan Smiles is “a feel-good product that people love to associate themselves with.”

Last, but not least, was Brandon Terrell’s Bar-Tender. Bar-Tender was pitched as a mobile-app and payment system that links to user’s credit cards and allows users to never exchange currency at a bar again, as your tab is taken care of right there on your mobile device. With Bar-Tender you may even split your tab with your associates and add gratuity. Not only does it save the user from the risk of leaving credit cards at bars, or the inconvenience of wrestling to the bar to close out a tab, it saves money for bars by eliminating the cost of transactions and receipts. Everyone wins.

It was a tough competition, but Bar-Tender pulled away with the grand prize and Brandon Terrell will be front and center at next year’s Entrepreneurs Summit. Congratulations, Brandon, and best of luck to the other participants.

After hearing from the contestants, there were a few questions raised to the audience from Alfred Edmond, Jr. regarding those looking to pitch new ideas to possible investors:

1. Think about valuation: what is your business worth?

2. How are you valuing your business?

3. How will you use the money you’re asking for—-manufacturing, prototype, marketing?

4. If I put money in your business, how am I gonna make money?

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