By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
The competition, which is loosely based on the famous television series Shark Tank, is sponsored by M&T Bank and gives small- to medium-sized businesses and start-ups the chance to compete for a $25,000 grand prize and $2,500 people’s choice award.
“We’re looking for just innovative ideas and ideas that we can really see grow,” said Robbin Lee, executive director of Baltimore Homecoming. “Being really clear about what your community impact is is really important at this day and age and into the future.”
Baltimore Homecoming, which launched in 2017, is a nonprofit initiative that works to build an alumni network of the city’s most accomplished expats, individuals who have spent a significant portion of their lives in Baltimore but now live outside of the city.
The organization views these expats as an untapped pool of opportunity and goodwill for Baltimore. By leveraging this network of alumni, Baltimore Homecoming hopes to bring more resources, including financial, social and human capital, to the city.
After the application for the competition closes, a selection committee that comprises the nonprofit’s host committee members, community advisors and previous Crab Tank participants will pick five finalists to present their pitch at Baltimore Homecoming’s Amplify 2022 in May.
Finalists will be notified in February, and the organization will work with them to craft their pitches so they are ready for their final presentation, which will be judged by a panel of celebrity judges.
Arion Long, founder of plant-based, Black-owned menstrual care company Femly, won the first Crab Tank Pitch Competition in 2019. She used the grand prize money to start the design process on Femly’s proprietary first-of-its-kind feminine hygiene dispenser.
“It’s really cool because we started this process at a time where feminine hygiene wasn’t required in any public restrooms,” said Long. “Now with cities and states proposing feminine hygiene laws, this has allowed us to be on the forefront of ending period poverty. Not only do we have feminine care products, but we also now have the machine that our product goes into to make it more accessible.”
To be eligible for the Crab Tank Pitch Competition, business owners must be 18 years of age or older, and their companies must be revenue generating, maintain a digital presence and be based within 50 miles of Baltimore.
The applications will be judged based on the quality of the business proposal and overall presentation, as well as the level of community impact and business improvement.
Even if finalists do not take home the grand prize, they still have the opportunity to connect with Baltimore Homecoming’s extensive network of successful and well-resourced alumni who may be able to lend support to the businesses.
“There is a lot of special talent and new ideas that are coming out of Baltimore that we need to highlight and that we need to support,” said Lee. “It is ultimately going to be awesome for our region if we can keep some of these companies here to create jobs for our local community and tap into the talent that’s already here.”
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