All photos by: Terrell Clark
There was an overload of Black girl magic at the inaugural HERs OWNly Pitch Contest at Riverside EpiCenter in Austell, Georgia last month. Thanks to Tamla Oates-Forney, Vice President of Human Resources for one of the world's most esteemed companies, General Electric, 25 women and girls of color entrepreneurs got the opportunity to compete for $50,000 worth of financial and professional services.
Oates-Forney launched the competition under her investment organization, TOFi International, a platform dedicated to supporting women and girls of color through philanthropy, thought leadership, and fiscal investments. With over 300 attendees and 500 people streaming the event live, 20 finalists (10 in the Jr. pitch contest and 10 in the adult one) and five runner-ups took to the stage to present their pitches to the judges.
"Although it was actually a pitch competition, you didn't feel it. Finalists were helping each other prepare, on the side of the stage to give hugs and high fives as their 'competition' exited the stage, there to wipe tears, and ultimately collaborating on business ventures post the contest," Oates- Forney told Because of Them We Can.
11-year-old Gabrielle "Gabby" Goodwin, earned the Jr. grand prize of $10,000 dollars for her business Gabby Bows.
"I feel honored because not only did I win, but I am the first to be named the HERs OWNly Jr Pitch Competition winner," said Goodwin. "I am very excited about winning this and can't wait to move forward growing my business."
Jennifer Lyle, the adult grand prize winner, won $25,000 for her company, Lush Yummies Pie.
"Organizations like TOFi should exist because they allow young women to not only connect with key influencers, but it allows them to connect with a group of like minded young women all focused on achieving their goals," expressed Lyle.
Tara Darnley of Darlyng & Co, was the second runner up, winning $10,000.
The People's Choice went to Diana Nichols and Melana Singletary, who snagged $5,000 for their business, Fuel Better Foods.
"TOFi invested in our business's and ideas in a way that did not just give us the opportunity to put much needed money into our companies growth, but in a way that prepared us for what is next," said co-founders of Fuel Better Fuel. "TOFi has opened up a whole new world of entrepreneurship that a lot of us never had much exposure to while in school...We are forever grateful!"
What's next for TOFi International? Besides preparing for next year's pitch contest, Oates-Forney, who credits corporate/leadership sheroes such as Deborah Elam, Carla Harris, and Gwendolyn Boyd for paving the way for her, shared that the investment firm is developing a foundation to expand TOFi’s philanthropic efforts and working on securing strategic partnerships to "drive collaboration and bring more funding to women/girls of color businesses."
Our founder Eunique Jones Gibson was awarded the Impact Award along with lifestyle specialist and inspirational author, Maisha Wynn.
The event was "more than a pitch contest," said Oates-Forney. "It was an all inspiring event full of pride and purpose."
We couldn't agree more! Mrs. Oates-Forney, thank you for using your platform to nurture and support the next generation of women of color entrepreneurs. Congratulations to all the winners and participants!