YOUNGSTOWN, OH: On Wednesday, August 19, 2020, the Youngstown Business Incuabtor’s Women in Entrepreneurship Program held its pitch event for its staple accelerator program, WE Launch. WE Launch is a 9 week program designed for women entrepreneurs to launch their business to the next level. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the program looked a little different this year as participants and speakers met via ZOOM instead of the traditional in person classes. 

Stephanie Gilchrist, the WE Program Director, said “the virtual classes provided us with a new challenge, but it wasn’t something the WE Program couldn’t handle.” She continued, “my biggest worry was that the ladies wouldn’t feel that bond and that sense of community and sisterhood they get from being in person, but the end result proved that it was a worry for nothing.” 

This cohort was smaller than most, but the ladies have already been having discussions about how they can work together in the future or who they might know in their personal networks to connect the other women to. This summer 2020 cohort consisted of:

  • Andrea Hudson – Cheer Image Iconz (Warren, OH)
    • Cheer Image Iconz, LLC is a nationally ranked recreation cheer program that is committed to the philosophy that every child is an “ICON”. It is our objective to develop powerful and self-confident athletes in the sport of cheer. 
  • Leslie Dunlap – FattyCakes Soap Company (Warren, OH)
    • FattyCakes Soap Company is a handcrafted premium soap, soaks, masks, hand sanitizer, and moisturizers company based in Warren, OH.
  • Jiquala Rushton – Achieve Beyond Your Goals Career Employment (Youngstown, OH)
    • ABYG Career Employment Offers clients, students and youth opportunities to help them increase their education, gain knowledge and build a career that will lead to success and financial security. They will also increase job skills and build a career path to help prosper their future.
  • Linda Barton – Sweet Memories Vintage Tees (Girard, OH)
    • Sweet Memories Vintage Tees is a spin out from New Dawn Designs which was started to reacquaint the community with vintage brands via T-shirts. The first collection honors the 100th anniversary of Good Humor, a national ice cream brand that originated in Youngstown. Sweet Memories Vintage Tees is a company with a purpose that donates 20% of the proceeds from each shirt sold to Akron Children’s Hospital.

On Wednesday August 19th, the 4 women gave a 2 minute pitch and then answered a series of questions asked by the screening committee. The screening committee was comprised of different members of the YBI staff including CEO, Barb Ewing, Director of Supplier Diversity & Inclusion, Carmella Williams, MBAC Program Coordinator, Tia Toles, and Director of Marketing & Communications, Corey Patrick, as well as Thea Nixon from Mahoning Matters

After hearing the pitches, the committee announced the winner of the $5,000 WE Launch Grant to be Andrea Hudson of Cheer Image Iconz. “She nailed it,” said Corey Patrick. “When I work with entrepreneurs, it’s a pitch like Andrea gave that I love to use as an example and a guideline. She hit all the important nuggets of knowledge to convey in a pitch. Clean, concise, direct, and to the point. This pitch day is when we see how the program has molded these ladies into business women on another level. They all did a fabulous job.”

Hudson had this to say of the WE Program:

“I am truly honored to be a part of the WE Program. I have learned so much about myself and how a village of women can learn, support, and grow each other throughout the entrepreneur process. I was about to give up my dream of opening my own cheer gym due to being scared and not having the knowledge of the business aspect but was quickly reminded as to why “I MATTER” and why “THEY MATTER”!”

Hudson plans to use the grant dollars to pay the rent on a brick and mortar building in Warren that will give her clients a stable, permanent place to practice and thrive.