For aspiring business owners, getting your foot in the door can be a challenge. In an effort to create opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and recent graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Mountain Dew recently launched the Real Change Opportunity Fund to provide vital funding for a new generation of Black business leaders.
Mountain Dew knows this kind of support is crucial: “The Black community faces a wealth gap that is a result of years of systemic racism. Even for those with the tenacity to catch up, they are restricted by barriers that should have long been removed.”
Mountain Dew believes entrepreneurs are the DOERs and the keys to building up Black-owned businesses and shrinking the historic wealth gap.
Taking it one step further, Mountain Dew unveiled “The Real Change Opportunity Fund Pitch Competition,” a much-needed platform and opportunity for Black entrepreneurs eager to bring their ideas to life. Participants were able to pitch their ideas in front of Morgan DeBaun, Blavity’s CEO and founder. DeBaun is no stranger to building a brand from the ground up. Over the last six years, she has turned Blavity Inc. into a recognizable force within the media industry.
For DeBaun, collaborating with HBCUs is a major key to opening doors for a new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s a largely untapped talent pool that DeBaun says is full of “incredibly talented people with innovative ideas, and future business leaders for the Black community. There is a clear value in fostering the aspirations of these promising young men and women, who will soon be the foundation of our community, and I’m honored that I was able to get to know some of them through the pitch competition.”
As a fellow entrepreneur, DeBaun is especially tuned into the needs of other Black business owners. So she values partnerships between Blavity and organizations like Mountain Dew as yet another opportunity to strengthen the economic future of Black America — something she’s worked hard to build through the Blavity, Inc brand platform.
“Our mission is for Black people to be happy, which comes from a variety of factors. One of which is economic freedom and self-empowerment, which our partnership with Mountain Dew offers through opening opportunities to Black entrepreneurs. Since day one, we’ve built a company that focuses on economically and creatively supporting Black millennials so they can pursue the work they love. And we have loved partnering with Mountain Dew to continue to do that,” says DeBaun.
Being an entrepreneur is often a long road. So as a judge, DeBaun says she looked for entrepreneurs with “a strong product market fit, a large market that they are uniquely positioned to serve, and the potential impact their business could have on the economic advancement of Black people.”
For those who think they’re up to the challenge, DeBaun says prioritizing value is a must. “Focus on the product! The more value you can provide, the easier scaling your business will be and the more doors will open.”
Adding, “Every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes.’ Entrepreneurship is a journey, and it’s incredibly important to continue to make progress.”
DeBaun was joined on the panel by a group of judges known as “DOERs,” including:
The Breakfast Club Co-Host DJ ENVY
Producer, actress and author Lala Anthony
Entertainment host Gia Peppers
CEO of PepsiCo Food, North America Steven Williams
Vice President of Marketing, Mountain Dew Nicole Portwood
Following hundreds of submissions, the seasoned panel centered on 50 finalists before ultimately giving 10 the chance to earn a portion of the $1 million prize pool, with each HBCU represented also slated to receive additional funding. These efforts are designed to break down some of the system barriers and hurdles that have historically plagued Black entrepreneurs.
After going through scores of amazing pitches and proposals, the panel finally narrowed the list down to five startups: Athlytic, Eventnoire, GABA, Pocket Advisor and BatteryXchange. Stay tuned to find out who will ultimately be crowned the official Real Change Opportunity Fund Pitch Competition winner!
For more information about MTN DEW Real Change Opportunity Fund, please visit mountaindew.com/world.