The Patricia Reser Center for the Arts was packed Tuesday night, Feb. 7, as 10 Black-led businesses pitched their products to an audience that would ultimately decide which businesses would take the top spots and walk away with tens of thousands of dollars in investments.
Entrepreneurs Tuesday were competing for a chance to win up to $30,000 in PitchBlack's seventh competition in the Portland area.
In a style akin to the television show "Shark Tank," each company was given five minutes to pitch its idea, followed by a two-minute question-and-answer period with the audience.
PitchBlack has hosted similar events 12 other times, though this is the first time it's been held in Beaverton, in the new Reser Center.
With 51% of the vote, Cyrus Coleman and Adewale Agboola of Creative Homies took first place and received a $30,000 grant.
The team has purchased a multi-story building on Northwest Glisan Street at Fourth Avenue in Old Town Portland.
Coleman and Agboola say they intend to create everything from a production studio to a makerspace to gallery space to a jazz bar and speakeasy. Their hope is to offer inviting, creative spaces, fostering new new artists and keeping them in the Portland area.
"Portland faces losing its creative community," Agboola said. "What if we create a system where we create people and keep them here in a place that inspires and empowers? The community craves it, wants it, needs it."
Rather than a typical investment, with the investor buying a portion of the business with the expectation of future payout, PitchBlack works a little differently.
Ciara Pressler, entrepreneur and emcee for the evening, said that "it is important for (PitchBlack founder Stephen Green), I and other founders that Black founders keep ownership of their businesses."
In second place, walking away with $20,000, was Damola Omotosho with his business, CardCraft.
Omotosho moved from the East Coast to Portland, leaving behind a big Nigerian family. He wanted to stay connected with family even from thousands of miles away.
Omotosho created CardCraft, an online business that hand-delivers handprinted, original cards and locally sourced gifts across the country.
"Through the pandemic, we saw how much connections matter," Omotosho said. "We're a connections company, a relationships company."
In third place, bringing in $10,000 in new investments, was Heart & Hustle Productions.
Rashad Floyd said he was pitching "Black excellence," something that is often overlooked in the media.
"They're telling our own stories, which is why we're misrepresented and misinterpreted," Floyd said.
Heart & Hustle aims to illustrate Black stories through film and photography, to show the successes of Black people in the community and empower the next generation to continue sharing authentic Black stories.
"Until no one is surprised Black people are where they are, we need to re-illustrate," Floyd said.
Other businesses featured, who walked away with $2,800 grants each, included:
- Black Earth United, an apparel brand creating sustainable and historical clothing. The investment will help launch a new collection made for Black people, by Black people, with Black women, said Jocelyn Rice during her presentation.
- The Corporate Strategist, with Blaire Hervey pitching a curated This is For Her Period, a subscription box for natural, chemical-free menstrual products from Black-owned businesses.
- Beaverton Black Parent Union, asking for an investment to keep existing staff and expand programming from family events to advocacy in the school district. "What if every Black Beaverton child wanted to stay here and grow old here?" Desiree Williams-Rajee of Beaverton Black Parents Union asked rhetorically in her pitch.
- Fridie Outdoors, Lestarya Tuadi Molloy's business that makes outdoor recreation and camping know-how accessible to all people, through a smartphone app that offers quick tutorials on basics like setting up a tent and starting a fire while offline in the wilderness.
- Mac Smiff's We Out Here Magazine, building a business to put cameras, pens and computers in the hands of children to continue to support art and artistry in the hip-hop world and beyond.
- Albina Vision Trust, pitched by Winta Yohannes, to begin to rebuild the Albina neighborhood in North and Northeast Portland, where a majority of the city's Black people once lived. The plan would set out spaces for home ownership, entrepreneurship and community resources, and the money would go to starting to purchase some of the sites.
- Black in Beaverton, an apparel brand aimed at "humanity first, love and Black culture" for Black Beavertonians and their allies. Kaman Minor's brand also intends to partner and share information and local Black-owned businesses.