1st Place Winners in BOLD IDEAS Pitch Competition Win $5,000
With $5,000 prize money from the BOLD IDEAS Pitch Competition, two first-prize winners now have the cash to move their entrepreneurial ideas forward in the world.
Competition was Fierce
This second annual contest hosted by Houston Community College (HCC) in partnership with University of St. Thomas’ McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise was the most challenging ever. The field of more than 46 contestants was narrowed to 20 for the final competition.
“It was a tough field,” Dr. Patrick Woock, director of UST’s McNair Center, said. “We are excited for all those who participated. They show true entrepreneurial spirit.”
This year’s Pitch Competition had two tracks for entry: entrepreneurship (for profit) and social entrepreneurship (not for profit). The competition was open to individuals or teams. Winners of 1st, 2nd and 3rd place on each track reaped $5,000, $2,000 and $1,000.
“The contest encourages students to bring their ideas forward and receive further inspiration,” Woock said. “The competition was underwritten by the Center, which aims to promote micro-entrepreneurship.”
Entrepreneurship Track: Kanisha Ffriend, First Place Winner
Winning first place in the entrepreneurship category was HCC student Kanisha Ffriend with her pitch for HEIRBLOOM.co
HEIRBLOOM.co is a company dedicated to improving the rate of positive birth experiences from the 1st to 4th trimester. To that end, it provides labor, birth, postpartum and lactation support coupled with high quality postpartum recovery products to expanding families.
This fifth-grade teacher’s focus is on providing high-quality care for every woman who has recently given birth, especially black women. She does this with premium postpartum recovery products such as breastfeeding relief spray and birth boxes. The new product she pitched at the competition was a postpartum salve infused with healing botanicals and specific oils used after birth to heal torn tissues.
Ffriend cited in her pitch that only 60% of black women who give birth survive according to the CDC. “As a fifth-year teacher, I believe if you provide a service with the marginalized in mind, you raise the whole classroom. My earnings will go to expanding my product line to this market with my Postpartum Jam in order to shift the healing process toward vitality and recover,” Ffiend said. "In three years, I see myself being a notable champion for equity in the maternal health field, particularly for people of color."
Ffriend is studying health sciences at HCC with plans to transfer into a nursing program. She is a graduate of Syracruse University where she majored in Education and Disability Studies with a focus on the D/deaf Culture. she most recently completed her Master's in Education at Relay Graduate School of Education. This go-getter also plans to pursue midwifery. Her long-term dream is to be leading doubla trainings and organizing community events empowering laboring mamas and partners.
With her earnings, Ffriend's goal is "to bring the collection of postpartum recovery products to the retail market. For now, they are made in small batches and can be ordered through the website at https://www.heirbloomco.com/shop.
In this track, second place winner was HCC student Davis Alford, third place winner was HCC student Luisa Nadaraha, and honorable mention went to UST student Jairo Suarez.
Social Entrepreneurship Track: Gabriela Alvarez, First Place Winner
Winning first place in the social entrepreneurship category was UST student Gabriela Alvarez ‘19 with her pitch for GRIND: Sports Technology. Alvarez is currently an MBA student at UST.
GRIND is a sports technology company that launched its first product in March 2020. The plan is to use a percentage of profits to give back to the community. GRIND will provide opportunity to economically disadvantaged schools in HISD through technology programs such as 3D printing, plasma cutting, laser cutting, electronic programming and welding.
“I knew I wanted to make an impact when I was in high school,” Alvarez said. “Coming from a low-income neighborhood, I was fortunate enough to experience the opportunities that schools in high-income neighborhoods have, and I knew I wanted to somehow bring more opportunity to disadvantaged communities.”
With the pitch competition money, Alvarez, along with her boyfriend Thomas Fields, who co-founded the company six years ago, will use the money to get the program into schools. Alvarez is in charge of marketing and branding.
“I will invest the competition money back into the company so we can start pushing our goal to give back to our community and follow through with the plan we presented by helping underprivileged schools and districts,” Alvarez said. “Considering the money will be in the form of a usable credit card, we would use some of the funds for our marketing materials (printed booklets with our plan to present to schools).”
Alvarez says that the Pitch Competition made her and Thomas dive deeper into the idea they initially had. “Before the pitch competition, it was just something we had thought of, but didn’t do too much brainstorming on it,” she said. ”For the competition we spent many hours doing research on HISD schools and economically disadvantaged students, and this really helped us get our idea and plan together.”
UST students swept the social entrepreneurism track: second place winner was UST student Maritza Diaz, third place winner was UST student Shannon Ugo, and honorable mention went to UST student George Fakes.
“Also, this year UST scored big winning first, second and third place in Social Entrepreneurship category,” Woock said, “which is a demonstration of UST’s clear social commitment.”
High Profile and Venture Capitalist Judges
Judges for the Sept. 12 final round were venture capitalists and high profile entrepreneurs from the Houston community, including UST alumni. Judges for the entrepreneurship track were Yusef Muhammad, Chapter President, SCORE Houston; Jesse Bounds ‘05, Innovation Director, City of Houston; and Robert De Los Santos, CEO, Sky High Party Rentals. Judges for the social entrepreneurship track were Grace Rodriguez, CEO, Impact Hub Houston; David Regenbaum, Chairman, HCC Foundation; and Summer Reeves, Founder, Thirteen 48 Heights.
“Everyone at the McNair@UST Center is proud of our student efforts, appreciative of our judges’ kind support and thankful for HCC’s hosting of the event,” Woock said.
To learn more about The McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise and its programs, click here.