Saidah Farrell stepped behind the podium and looked around at the entrepreneurs, guests and judges awaiting her presentation Monday at the Kardiac Club at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Farrell is the founder of the Marshmallow of the Month Club, a unique taste experience that offers customers a subscription-based gift box service where they can receive or deliver monthly boxes of homemade artisan marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate sauces. She was representing one of seven small business services participating in the showcase, which allowed them to pitch their business to a panel of three judges — similar ABC's "Shark Tank" TV show — with the winner earning $10,000 for their business.
In a 15-minute presentation, all participants provided the judges with information about how their businesses have grown, challenges they face in their industries and stories about what drives them to become successful owners. The judges also asked them questions following their presentation.
"I was a little nervous before I got up there," Farrell said. "For my numbers, I wasn't sure how I wanted to present them, but when I got up there, I was like, 'Have fun. You got this.'"
After deliberation from the judges — Vaughn Johnson, the Cuyahoga County Deputy Director for Economic Development, Tessa Jackson, the City of Cleveland Director of Economic Development and Peter John-Baptiste, Senior Vice President of Communications for the Browns — Farrell earned the prize.
She held a smile on her face the rest of the night as she carried around her celebratory check and received congratulations from each of the other participants, who all also received $2,500 for their business and work in the JumpStart Small Business Impact Program.
"I'm stoked," Farrell said with a laugh. "It's a testament to not only just the 10-grand, but what I've done over the last 12 weeks."
Each participant spent 12 weeks preparing through the JumpStart program for the showcase, which was the first of four total events the Browns have partnered with JumpStart to accelerate the growth of Cleveland-area Black and Hispanic/Latino-entrepreneurs. JumpStart is a nationally recognized venture development organization providing capital, services and connections to help entrepreneurs grow, researchers commercialize and corporations innovate.
A Small Business Training Camp (Sept. 7), First and Tech network event (Oct. 11) and second showcase event (Dec. 7) will all also be held at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Other business participants Monday included Concession Stand, Sauce the City, Rhonda Crowder and Associates, Village Trends Boutique, CoCo D. Luxe Beauty and Cure Nail Gallery.
"The ability to be able to align with the Browns, get the visibility and be able to leverage the Browns brand is something that's impactful for every graduate tonight," said Lorne Novick, Chief Services Officer for JumpStart. "The Browns have directly allowed us to pay for a larger event, be able to promote the event a little heavier, as well as do events we haven't done before at FirstEnergy Stadium besides the Impact Program."
The Browns wanted to partner with JumpStart to help amplify the large collection of minority-owned small businesses in the Cleveland area.
"We always go through a strategic analysis of what we can be doing better, and we definitely saw Black and minority-owned businesses as an opportunity to really make more of an impact," Browns Vice President of Community Relations Jenner Tekancic said. "When we met with JumpStart and their representatives, we saw how passionate they were about the local community and how they were gathering everyone together to showcase from the talent in our region."
The experience was truly a win for all parties involved, and it was only the first of several other opportunities the businesses will have to showcase their services, network with other entrepreneurs and acquire resources and knowledge to grow their brand and business to a significantly higher level of success.
"Even though we're a small group, we all have different things we're doing for the City of Cleveland," said Courtney Dorsey, the founder of Coco D. Luxe Beauty. "I think it's awesome that the Browns said, 'Hey, let us sponsor this for them,' and be a part of it.
"It's community outreach, and I think that's awesome."