NCDE Holds 2021 PitchFest Competition
The Viscardi Center, a nonprofit providing a lifespan of programs and services that educate, employ, and empower children and adults with disabilities, presented its second annual virtual National Center for Disability Entrepreneurship (NCDE) Founders with Disabilities PitchFest Competition, with JPMorgan Chase & Co., on Friday, November 19.
The event brought together seven budding entrepreneurs from around the country to battle it out for $75,000 in equity-free cash grants and pro bono mentorship packages. Each founder had five minutes to pitch their unique business idea to four exacting judges: Shon Barnwell, Founder of Shon Barnwell Events, LLC and Barnwell Publishing; Bruce Ferris, retired CEO of Prudential Annuity Distributors; Kenia Nunez, Assistant Dean of Entrepreneurship & Business Development at Hofstra University; and Sophia Zisook, Director of Organizational Partnerships at Hello Alice.
“Entrepreneurship offers a strategic pathway for people with disabilities to overcome the many barriers that exist within the traditional employment model,” said Sheryl P. Buchel, Interim President & CEO at The Viscardi Center. “A natural extension of The Viscardi Center’s mission, the National Center for Disability Entrepreneurship empowers innovative self-starters with the tools they need to achieve self-employment success.”
The top three equity-free cash grant prizes, selected by the judges, were awarded to Calvette Brown, who received $10,000 for The Guiders Shield; Miguel Angel Davila, who received $8,000 for DAVILA Applied Anthropological Research; and L. Darnell Williams, who received $5,000 for L. Darnell Insights.
The first- and second-place winners also swept the remaining award categories. Calvette Brown was voted the Audience Favorite by attendees, receiving a 30-minute mentoring session with the President and Founder of Hello Alice, a free multi-channel platform powered by AI technology that helps small business launch and obtain funding. She was also named the recipient of a mentorship package from CELA Innovation – a company connecting new startups with accelerators and incubators – worth $25,000 in value. Miguel Angel Davila received a mentorship package from UNI Communications – which provides web design, branding, and strategic branding services to small businesses – worth $20,000 in value.
The 2021 PitchFest featured keynotes from Major Jas Boothe, President & Founder of Final Salute Inc. and Chief Spirituality Officer of ANJA, LLC, and Jim Sinocchi, Head of Disability Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase & Co. It was sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Marks Family Foundation, UPS, CELA Innovation, Hello Alice, UNI Communications, Custom Computer Specialists, The Minowitz Family Foundation, and John V. Pellitteri.
The 2021 NCDE PitchFest Founders are:
- Calvette Brown, The Guiders Shield – A Patent-Pending Solution to Safe Guiding for Vulnerable Populations
- Tamesha Coleman-Edwards, Unique Minds Innovate – Connecting NYC Youth with Disabilities to STEAM Opportunity
- Miguel Angel Davila, DAVILA Applied Anthropological Research – Bridging the Data Equity Gap for Minority-Owned Start-Ups, Non-Profits, and Small Businesses
- Jenny Lux, Defining Strengths – Connecting Alabama-Based Youth with Disabilities to a Better Future
- Pamela Muhammad, PamAllah Palace Accessories – Our Accessories Vow to Make Your Outfit Wow
- K. Pleasant, Cerebral Palsy Positive – A 501 c3 Supplementing Transportation Costs for Adults with Cerebral Palsy to the Nation’s CPRN Centers
- L. Darnell Williams, L. Darnell Insights – Financial and Life Coaching for the Underserved
About The National Center for Disability Entrepreneurship
The National Center for Disability Entrepreneurship (NCDE) at The Viscardi Center empowers innovative self-starters to achieve self-employment success. Developed and led by a highly experienced team of subject matter experts and mentors, NCDE offers aspiring founders with disabilities from across the U.S. a free, virtual, fully accessible program, professional benefits assistance, opportunities to pitch their business, as well as receive equity-free cash grants from the NCDE Accelerator Fund. NCDE also actively seeks out partners to help build the first accessible entrepreneurial ecosystem and elevate entrepreneurship as a strategic pathway to financial independence for the disability community.
About The Viscardi Center
The Viscardi Center, a network of non-profit organizations based in Albertson, provides a lifespan of services that educate, employ, and empower people with disabilities. Its programs and services include Pre-K through High School education, school-to-work transition services, vocational training, career counseling and placement, entrepreneurship and workforce diversification assistance to children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and businesses. It was founded in 1952 by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr. who himself wore prosthetic legs, served as disability advisor to eight U.S. Presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter, and became one of the world’s leading advocates for people with disabilities.
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