If your polished résumé or Linkedin.com profile has led to few interviews or scant job offers, a Little Rock entrepreneur believes she has the perfect answer to that problem.
During the upbeat Remix Pitch Challenge on Saturday night (Feb. 23) at the Arkansas Innovation Hub in North Little Rock, local native Kimberly Harris went home with a $5,000 check as the first winner of the “Battle of Ideas” contest. Harris’ idea that won over a crowd of more than 150 people is a new startup platform that allows job seekers to present their “soft” skills, work experience and background to prospective employers in a YouTube-like format.
The founder of Vewmee (pronounced ‘View Me’) beat out four other participants at the popular, upbeat pitch challenge where local startups introduced their fresh business brainstorms in an atmosphere that is half-party and half-pitch challenge. This edition, the fifth in the popular series, was aimed at bolstering opportunities for women-run, minority early stage companies in the central Arkansas’ burgeoning startup scene.
According to Remix CEO Benito Lubazibwa, the local entrepreneurial service organization received 54 submissions for this edition of the popular pitch challenge held at different venues across the city. The cash prize for the contest, he said, has grown from $1,000 to $5,000, while the presentations have become more polished and in-depth over the past 18 months.
“I believe that our pitch challenge events, ‘Battle of Ideas,’ have a ripple effect beyond the cash prizes,” said Lubazibwa, a Tanzanian native. “These events are fueling and inspiring imagination, innovation, creativity and above all advancing the entrepreneurial mindset in the black community.”
Before the contest began, Remix Chief Creative Officer Angel Burt revved up the crowd with upbeat music and a Michael Buffer-styled “Let’s Get Ready Rumble” introduction as the pitch challengers took the stage to present their business inventions.
During her 5-minute presentation, Harris entertained the high-energy crowd with a free-flowing pitch on her video résumé platform that is more akin to a YouTube video than a traditional paper resume or LinkedIn profile. Harris even quickly won over the crowd by ripping up a giant-sized paper resume to kick off her pitch.
Besides Harris, local entrepreneurs Stacy Dantzler Young, Emma Willis and Tawanna Broadway also gave on-stage pitches at the event. Young, founder and CEO of BusTHAT, pitched a new mobile app that would allow travel organizers to plan bus-related vacations, family reunions and business trips through a seamless online platform.
Willis, founder of Fox Hunter, introduced a new upscale and fashionable line of hunting apparel for women and alternately entertained the crowd with her comedy-filled presentation. The contest also included Tawanna Broadway, founder and CEO of Tawannabs LLC, an early stage incubator firm that is developing a money-holding invention to help visually-impaired persons organize their currency.
Broadway was selected to participate in the final pitch challenge after completing the five-week accelerator Momentum program for early-stage, minority and women-owned startups where each participant receives $500 in technical assistance to further their business plan. That first-of-its-kind program, sponsored by Remix and Winrock International’s Women’s Business Center, began in the first week of January with ten cohorts from central and Northeast Arkansas.
Broadway won an earlier pitch contest against three other Momentum finalists, taking home a $1,000 check and a chance to go against the other startups in the $5,000 challenge. But Harris won the evening prize after event attendees voted for her by text as their favorite pitch challenger.
Harris said she has been working on the Vewmee concept for several years now and was one out of hundreds of applications selected to participate in the 2017 BIG Tech Incubator in Atlanta, a 26-week incubator-paid program for high-potential Black and Latina women founders of tech-enabled startups. She said the $5,000 Remix prize will allow her firm to fully develop its website and online presence and make plans to begin introducing the video résumé concept to HR professionals and potential partners.
“This will allow us to take that next step to become a (viable) company,” Harris told Talk Business & Politics.
For Remix, Lubazibwa said the local startup booster has been increasingly involved in several projects with Winrock, Fayetteville-based Communities Unlimited Inc., the Little Rock Tech Park and other city groups to strengthen support and funding for women, urban and minority entrepreneurs across the capital city region.
The Remix CEO, a University of Central Arkansas graduate, said he is working on other ideas he hopes to introduce soon to help minority- and women-owned early stage startups with access to capital and their venture funding needs. The Little Rock urban startup accelerator will also soon kick off its eclectic Night Market at Bernice Gardens, where dozens of Main Street vendors and local startups sell and barter their wares in an international atmosphere of food, fun, music and dance.