disruptor summit, Hyatt, Black-business, Black start-up, grant, award grant

Hyatt Corporation Awards Black-Owned Startups $30K In Business Grants

Mikáel Pyles says he and his business partners work 25/8 on their business QuikLiq. That’s 25 hours a day, eight days a week spent on their unique mobile app, allowing customers to purchase wine, beer, and liquor from Black-owned brands and independently operated stores.

And their hard work is paying off — literally — as the new company won first place and a $15,000 business grant at the BLACK ENTERPRISE 2023 Disruptor Summit pitch competition, sponsored by Hyatt.

“We are grateful to Hyatt for sponsoring the pitch competition because it promotes entrepreneurship, it fosters creativity, and it fosters hope,” said QuikLiq president and co-founder Pyles.

“When companies like Hyatt sponsor pitch competitions and give money to these initiatives, it puts the opportunity for Black ownership, entrepreneurship, and innovation on such a higher platform.”

The pitch competition has taken various forms in recent years at BE events for budding entrepreneurs, including video submissions leading to live competitions in front of judges for a financial prize plus mentoring sessions. This is Hyatt’s inaugural year sponsoring the contest, providing business grants to three finalists selected by BLACK ENTERPRISE staff from a pool of nearly 50 video entries. Those three finalists pitched live during the BE Disruptor Summit in Atlanta on June 3, hosted by Nationwide, at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead.

BLACK ENTERPRISE Disruptor Summit Pitch Contest, Hyatt
Black Enterprise President and CEO Earl “Butch” Graves Jr. (far left) and SVP and Executive Editor Alfred Edmond Jr. (far right) present the winning pitch team’s award. QuikLiq president and co-founder Mikáel Pyles (center left) and CEO Navarr Grevious (center right) took first place at the BLACK ENTERPRISE Disruptor Summit 2023 pitch competition, sponsored by Hyatt.

“Black entrepreneurship is not only something we are passionate about at Hyatt – it’s something we are committed to supporting as part of Change Starts Here,” said Tyronne Stoudemire, senior vice president of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Hyatt Corporation.

“We are thrilled to be a part of BLACK ENTERPRISE ’s pitch competition which is very much aligned with our vision for a more just and equitable Hyatt community.”

The three finalists took to the main stage of the regal Buckhead Ballroom, where they each had 90 seconds to verbally pitch their business to an audience of hundreds of enthusiastic attendees—many of whom are also entrepreneurs. The winners were announced at the summit’s awards brunch.

The first runner-up was Dr. Erica Gamble, founder of The Wig Doctor, which provides non-medical, non-surgical hair augmentation solutions for men, women and children suffering with hair loss. Gamble also offers scalp analysis and treatments to help clients grow their hair back organically, as well as breast forms and custom prosthetics pre-and post-mastectomy. The Wig Doctor’s business grant from Hyatt was $10,000.

The second runner-up was Michael Fulton II, founder of Bizinc, a social connecting marketplace app that empowers services and small businesses. Bizinc combines social marketing, freelancing, and booking into a single platform to enhance users’ social visibility and engagement. During his pitch, Fulton said the app is in beta mode, and users are currently earning monthly income through Bizinc. Fulton was awarded $5,000.

BE Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Alfred Edmond Jr. introduced the competition and each finalist during the summit. A business mentor and coach for more than 25 years, Edmond will provide several coaching sessions to each of the three finalists throughout this year.

“Hyatt provided business grants for the pitching entrepreneurs, as they are investing in businesses that are going to be successful,” Edmond said. “I recommend to every entrepreneur: you should be pitching as much as possible, everywhere you can, because it’s not just about the money; it’s about the relationships.”

From HBCU Classmates to Business Co-Founders

Pyles, Aaron Carter, and Navarr Grevious are co-founders of QuikLiq. The trio met while students at HBCU Clark Atlanta University and saw a need for safe alcohol delivery services for social events. Their business plan from over a decade ago required dedication and lots of patience, as it took time for select states to allow alcohol delivery. QuikLiq is now active in two states, boasting 7,000 downloads and counting. Grevious is CEO, and Carter is Chief Marketing Officer.

“We are the only platform of our kind dedicated to helping mom-and-pop liquor stores and minority-owned brands stay in business in today’s ever-evolving retail landscape,” Pyles said.

“We can use our platform to increase visibility and accessibility of Black-owned brands.”

The QuikLiq team plans to use its business grant from Hyatt to “further fuel innovation in our technology” to make the platform more user-friendly and expand operations. QuikLiq is currently available in Atlanta, west Florida, and Miami—the team’s headquarters. They plan to expand throughout the southeast this year and are looking to head west by 2024.

BLACK ENTERPRISE is lauded as the authority for Black excellence, entrepreneurship, and forward movement,” said Pyles, who grew up with copies of BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine on his parents’ coffee table.

“To have the opportunity to pitch our business to such a huge platform is a watershed moment and life-changing experience.”