5 Detroit women entrepreneurs among 10 finalists to vie for piece of $36,000 in virtual competition

Michigan Women Forward will host the Virtual WomanUp & Pitch Competition on Feb. 16 when 10 women entrepreneurs from southeast Michigan will present their business plans to a panel of business leaders and an audience of community leaders, business owners, and potential investors.


The 10 Southeast Michigan growth and lifestyle category finalists are:


Ange Zelenak, InkCourage: Selling temporary tattoos, cards and other items that feature words of encouragement.


Anna Sadovnikova, LiquidGoldConcept Inc, Ypsilanti: Provides health professionals and trainees with in-person and virtual simulation education in all subjects related to maternal-child care.


Kayla Laird, Lord Laird’s Premium Lemonade, Flint: Natural and holistic bottled beverages in a variety of flavors.


Sally Moore, Parker Avenue, Detroit: A relaxing local yarn store created to provide Detroiters with a rejuvenating sense of comfort and community.


Ashley Williams, RIZZARR, Inc., Detroit: A tech-enabled content marketplace that helps brands work with Millennial and Gen Z content creators. RIZZARR acts as an intermediator for brands to find, connect, and work with content creators to leverage their marketing efforts.


Rebecca Altounian, Saliva Systems, Keego Harbor: Saliva Systems offers patients a long-term, sustainable, and easy-to-use solution for oral secretion management.


Lauren Daniels, Sumptuous Spirits, Detroit: A full-service mobile bartending company for social and corporate events, life celebrations and private parties in metro Detroit.


Sue Kinch, Tangico, Pontiac: A Michigan manufacturer of custom gifts: Wine stoppers, ornaments, bottle openers, cutting boards, key holders and Snapi the Single Handed Server.


Jordan Yagiela, Team Yagiela, Detroit: A carpentry and residential construction company headquartered in Detroit’s Northweest Goldberg neighborhood, serving primarily Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.


Jeana Harper-Kirkland, Johnson and Harper Creations, LLC (Torso Sweatband (TSB), Detroit: Provides a product based on comfort and solutions for breast care complications.


“The WomanUp & Pitch event is about so much more than a simple pitch competition,” said Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of Michigan Women Forward, a statewide organization that aims to create an inclusive economy in Michigan. “It hones the business and presentation skills of participants, fosters cooperation and collaboration, and draws well-deserved attention to the incredible wealth of talent and creativity of Michigan’s women entrepreneurs. We’re very proud to do what we can to help these 30 women build businesses that benefit their communities.”


In addition to Detroit, virtual pitch competitions took place in Grand Rapids on Jan. 28 and Jackson on Feb. 4. Each competition features 10 finalists, with 30 total participants statewide.


In each market, $36,000 in prize money will be awarded. Winners in each category and from each region will earn cash prizes: two $10,000 first prizes per location; two $5,000 second prizes per location; two $2,500 third prizes per location; and an Audience Choice winner of $1,000 per location. The general public is invited to attend the event and vote for the Audience Choice winner. The competition will be broadcast live from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on MWF’s Facebook and YouTube pages. To register, click here.


The WomanUp & Pitch event is made possible by sponsorship from the Consumers Energy Foundation, which has contributed $850,000 toward MWF entrepreneur programs since 2015, including $115,000 for this year’s competitions.


“Consumers Energy has provided nearly $2.5 million to Michigan small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including $200,000 to MWF for the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund. We feel strongly that supporting Michigan’s startup businesses and communities is more important now than ever,” said Carolyn Bloodworth secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation, in a release. “We are excited to provide continued support for Michigan Women Forward and this year’s WomanUp & Pitch Competitions to create opportunities for these entrepreneurs.”


Southeast Michigan judges are Tonya Berry, vice president, Gas Operations, Consumers Energy; Meredith Freeman, director, Alignment and Impact Investing, Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation; and Michael Moco, director, Wealth Management Risk, Comerica Bank.


Prior to the pitch competition, MWF paired each finalist with a coach and mentor. The coaches have been working with the finalists to develop their business plan and perfect their pitches.


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