Black Enterprise, Disruptor Summit, pitch competition

3 Black Businesswomen Bag $30K During Black Enterprise’s Disruptor Summit Pitch Contest

Three Black women entrepreneurs were top winners out of 108 submissions in this year's pitch competition.

Entrepreneur Debbie Dickinson was humble after winning first place and $15,000 in a pitch competition at the 2024 BLACK ENTERPRISE Disruptor Summit in Atlanta.

She is CEO and founder of Thermaband, a South Florida-based company offering technological solutions to manage menopause symptoms for women. Her firm sells a personal monitoring and cooling band with a connected app. 

This year marks the first time Walmart has sponsored the pitch competition. Narrowed from four finalists, BLACK ENTERPRISE presented three cash prizes of $15,000 for first place, $10,000 for second, and $5,000 for third. The finalists will also get business coaching sessions from BLACK ENTERPRISE.

The winning pitches by Dickinson and two other Black businesswomen are a big deal as they were chosen from 108 submissions in this year’s Disruptor Summit Fast Pitch Competition.

Torarie Durden, head of marketing for Walmart Business, says his company is continually looking at how to help small businesses and entrepreneurs achieve their purpose.

“The mission of Walmart Business is to help others save time, money, and hassle.”

Dickinson told BLACK ENTERPRISE that she plans to use the money to advance the development of the Thermaband Zone app to achieve personalized care for women. “The funds received will really help promote solutions to make a difference in the lives of women.” 

She says her firm seeks strategic partners and investors to join Thermaband in disrupting and aiding women’s health. 

Finalists were given only 90 seconds to give the judges and attendees verbal pitches. Many were seasoned or emerging entrepreneurs also trying to scale their businesses. The pitches had to cover an array of questions, including: What is your product? What makes your business disruptive? The winners were announced at the event’s awards presentation.

Disruptor Summit, pitch competition
(Photo: UWG – Monique Nelson and Gregory Edwards/Black Enterprise)

Winning a pitch competition can be groundbreaking. Along with providing an opportunity to gain capital, it can help entrepreneurs turn their passion into a thriving business and possibly boost their exposure to potential investors looking to invest money into an enterprise.

Take Arielle Brown, owner of Bea’s Bayou Skincare. She won second place and $10,000. Her New Orleans-based company offers eczema-focused haircare and skincare products. She plans to use the capital to get her company’s products dermatologist-tested and microbiome-certified. “This will help us generate more revenue, expand our offerings, and build brand awareness.”

She says she was excited to make her pitch to BLACK ENTERPRISE because problems like dandruff affect 90% of Black Americans. “So, winning this competition means a lot  to me.” Brown says her business is now fundraising to boost capital and looking for investors.

Tia Robinson, owner of Vertical Activewear, won third place. It is an Atlanta-based smart and sustainable manufacturing company that makes clothing on demand. She plans to use the $5,000 she won “to automate our process, service more clients, and make a greater environmental impact.”

Further, Robinson plans to launch a fundraising round in the third quarter of this year to continue developing her firm’s tech component to support on-demand apparel manufacturing. She says that would allow the business to offer that service to other brands and companies by 2025.

Robinson has ambitious goals, expecting to become a “double-digit” million manufacturing company by late next year.

The fourth finalist, Devin “Egypt” Robinson, inventor of My Organic Pod, was awarded $1,000 by Walmart. He pitched his solar-powered structure, which he says allows you to farm organic food, including tomatoes, catfish, and eggs. He plans to use the money to finish a bartering app, allowing his business to build a community of organic pod owners. He and Tia Robinson are not related.