This year’s participants in the pitch competition have been working with coaches for weeks to perfect their business plans, and at the convention they will network with potential employers and investors. (Courtesy photo)

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

We’re Empowered to Achieve The impossible (WETATi), an organization that focuses on education and economic empowerment for low to moderate income students, will host an entrepreneurship convention and business idea pitch competition on July 27.

“It is used as a way for young students to showcase their business ideas in front of big companies and seasoned entrepreneurs, like PNC Bank, Chick-fil-a and SA-TECH,” said Vivian Ebisike, the social media and public relations coordinator for WETATi.

The event will take place virtually through Webex, and ten students, ranging from middle school and high school to college, will compete for the $2500 grand prize. Each participant will have three minutes to pitch their idea in front of a panel of judges that includes employees from Truist Bank, Fulton Bank and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

“In essence, WETATi is creating future CEOs,” said Ebiske.

Aside from the actual competition, the convention will feature a business expo and a power hour of networking where students can connect with potential employers and businesses can gain greater visibility. Attendees will also have the opportunity to make contacts with the businesses in attendance.

“It really showed me what it means to pay it forward while also just not being limited to the traditions that education kind of forces upon you,” said Malcolm Woodbury, the 2020 winner of the competition. “It shows you that you can really craft your own route and make your career what you want it to be.”

Woodbury, who is an information systems and supply chain management student at the University of Maryland, pitched a digital platform named BookedIn. It is intended for public speakers with the goals of helping them to improve their craft, book venues and build relationships between speakers and venues. After winning, Woodbury was awarded a scholarship, and he said he plans to launch BookedIn sometime after graduation.

This year, the participants have business ideas for the fashion, media, nonprofit, hair care and cosmetic industry. They are all students of color, and most of the judges and coaches are minorities. Ebiske said this can help to inspire the participants because their mentors are a reflection of themselves, and they are proof that working hard to pursue your dreams can yield success.

However, this inspiration is not limited to the participants. Ebiske also said that young spectators in the audience could be motivated to generate their own business ideas.

Prior to the competition on Tuesday, the participants were paired with coaches who work in their respective industries. These mentors primarily help the students to shape their revenue models and to create a pitch that sufficiently engages the audience. They also help the students work on their delivery of the pitch by focusing on proper cadence, eye contact and speed.

“WETATi, in general, uplifts young students to let them know that as long as they do the work and put in the effort to make their dreams come true, it will come into fruition,” said Ebiske.

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