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

Anyone who has ever delivered an elevator pitch knows how important it is to have a commanding presence when presenting. You’re judged on your command of the room. Your goal is to be a storyteller. If it’s good enough, your pitch might lead to some fast cash to jumpstart your business.

Each year, a group of select entrepreneurs bring their best 60-second pitch and go head-to-head at the Black Enterprise Elevator Pitch. The grand prize winners walk away with a coveted $10,000 award. The Elevator Pitch Competition is one of the major attractions of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference+ Expo hosted by Nationwide (the 2013 pitch competition will take place this May in Columbus, Ohio). Past winners from 2010 and 2011 not only put their cash prizes to good use but have taken their businesses to new heights.

Take Douglas Wiggins, founder of Body Quest Protein Ice Cream, who tied for first place in 2010. Wiggins says he used the $10,000 prize winnings for sales, marketing, and production. A year later in October 2011, Body Quest was acquired by Charlotte, North Carolina-based Lindy’s Homemade, one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of Italian Ice and Gelato.  It’s a move that Wiggins says increased manufacturing capability and market distribution significantly.

Body Quest Protein Ice Cream was birthed at Hank’s Ice Cream, a local ice cream parlor in Atlanta, Georgia owned by Wiggins. He officially launched Body Quest Ice Cream, LLC in 2005, introducing it to the public at the National Body Building Championships in Atlanta and setting the standard for high quality nutrition in the frozen dessert format. Today, the Body Quest brand is used by bodybuilders, athletes and people with medical conditions such as chemotherapy and dialysis patients.  It is served in over 1,500 locations across the U.S.

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.”

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/ <https://blackenterprise.com/ec/>