Female Entrepreneurs Sweep CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center’s Fifth Union Bank Start-Up Pitch Competition - CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center
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Female Entrepreneurs Sweep CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center’s Fifth Union Bank Start-Up Pitch Competition

The Latest Women Making History Are Four San Diego Startups in Education, Child Care,
Afro-Mixed Hair Care, Baking

SAN DIEGO (March 18, 2022) – Today, CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center and Union Bank announced the winners of the fifth Union Bank Start-Up Pitch Competition providing local entrepreneurs with $26,000 in business grants. New this year, additional funding from Union Bank provided larger business grants, a fourth-place winner to the competition, as well as additional funds for all participants.

The virtual pitch competition featured nine local entrepreneurs – all participants in CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center’s business accelerator program, the only one of its kind in the region focused on serving low-to moderate-income and diverse founders in partnership with the City of San Diego.

This group is the business accelerator’s fifth cohort and consists of 63% women-owned businesses in industries including wellness, culinary and baking, education technology, interior design and personal care services. The pitch competition is the final component of the program after four months of free business development and mentorship.

“It’s exciting to see the hard work and progress the entrepreneurs in CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center’s business accelerator program continue to demonstrate. Supporting businesses in all San Diego communities is integral to the growth of our local economy,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “The City of San Diego is proud to partner with CAJC as it provides resources, mentorship and other support for low- to moderate-income business founders who are growing their startup businesses.”

For the first time, a live event was held virtually on CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center’s YouTube channel to publicly announce the winners and celebrate the cohort.

During the live winner’s announcement event, San Diego Regional President at Union Bank Isai Amaya shared how grateful and excited Union Bank is to help and guide the founders in the business accelerator program.

“This is not the first and certainly not the last cohort that will go through this program and every single time I have the honor of participating, I walk away inspired and truly impressed by the ideas these entrepreneurs come up with and how dedicated and committed they are to their communities. It’s not just about their business but it’s about strengthening the local San Diego community and that is something we too care deeply about at Union Bank,” said Amaya.

The first-place winner of the competition is elevatEd Classrooms, a startup owned by Jaclyn Sarnese and focused on educational consulting and professional development services to K-12 schools, districts and other youth-serving organizations – taking them from “surviving to thriving.” elevatEd Classrooms received a $10,000 cash prize from Union Bank to support its business.

The second-place award went to Village Kids Early Childhood Community, a company that provides high-quality child care environment, grounded in principles of social justice and inclusion, focused on the child care needs of Southeast San Diego, led by Michelle DeJohnette. The startup won $5,000. Braid Street, which specializes in protective hairstyle services, hair care courses and styling products for the Afro-mixed population in San Diego under the leadership of Soely Sanchez, was awarded the third-place prize, including $2,500. For the first time this year, a fourth-place business grant of $1,500 was given to founder Amaya Ford for Mya’s Catering Company, a classic bakery that makes homemade desserts with a touch of love. All other participants received a $1,000 prize.

“Between monetary support, critical to early progress of businesses, and the kindness, care and dedication to understanding the needs of the individual founders, we could not have done this without Union Bank’s generosity and genuine care for our founders as they strive to create economic opportunities for themselves, their families and community,” said Alex Waters, director of economic development at Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. “It is one thing to say that you support an organization; it is another to show up and spend your time and energy helping to foster change.”

The winner of the Audience Choice award is Braid Street, selected by public vote on the business accelerator’s YouTube channel. All the videos, including the live event can be viewed on CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center YouTube channel at bit.ly/CAJCYouTube.

In total, nine companies competed in the virtual pitch competition and 10 participated in the program: A Caramel Affaire, Braid Street, elevatEd Classrooms, Interactive Play, Interiors 432, Mya’s Catering Company, Olongapo Disco, Shift Micromobility Compliance, SouthEast Fusion 619 and Village Kids Early Childhood Community.

Each company presented their ideas in a five-minute video pitch, and a panel of judges voted based on criteria, including business model, market opportunity, job creation potential and long-term vision.

Pitch competition judges included:

  • Isai Amaya, San Diego Regional President, Union Bank
  • Lonnie Lucas, Board Member of Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation
  • Daichi Pantaleon, Assistant Deputy Director of Community Development Division of Economic Development of the City of San Diego
  • Latanya West, Managing Editor of San Diego Voice & Viewpoint

CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center is currently accepting applications for its sixth cohort. Interested applicants can apply at bit.ly/CAJC_cohort6application. The deadline to apply is Monday, April 4 at 11:59 p.m.

About CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center
CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center (CAJC) is the region’s first low-to moderate-income and diversity-focused business accelerator program, guiding startups that want to grow rapidly with all the support they need to be successful. A partnership between the City of San Diego, the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and CONNECT w/ San Diego Venture Group, the program provides participants with mentors, weekly workshops and guidance on how to scale their businesses.

CAJC also includes a Business Resource Center, so that all entrepreneurs and small businesses can learn about local services and support to move their ideas and businesses forward. This program is funded in whole or in part with Community Development Block Grant program funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the City of San Diego, as well as donations from the community and corporations

To learn more or get involved, visit connectallsd.org.