PRESS RELEASE: The BIG Pitch Awards $31,000 to Entrepreneurs of Color 

Posted on June 8, 2020
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Contact Becky Pittman

The BIG Pitch Awards $31,000 to Entrepreneurs of Color 

Statewide collaboration on virtual pitch event leads to big prizes for four Arkansas entrepreneurs  

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. June 5, 2020 – Four big winners took home the top prize in their categories at The BIG Pitch, a pitch event created to invest in diverse entrepreneurs awarding $31,000 in prize money. The inaugural event drew hundreds of applications and was hosted by Venture Noire, The Venture Center, Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Walton Family Foundation. The plight of business owners harmed by the Covid-19 Crisis spurred the new event on a virtual platform. Hundreds of supporters logged on to the virtual event held Thursday,  June 4th.

The BIG Pitch 2020 Winners are:

• Category One: $5,000 LaTasha Moore, Tasha Teaches Spanish

• Category Two: $10,000 Chris James, The Roots Art Connection

• Category Three: $15,000 Kristian Edwards, BLK + GRN

• Viewers’ Choice: $1,000 Lonzell Blackmon, Blackmon Care Services

“The BIG Pitch is an opportunity for us to celebrate entrepreneurs of color doing good business in Arkansas,” said Bjorn Simmons, Founder of The BIG Pitch. “The BIG Pitch encourages diverse entrepreneurs and stimulates conversations about intentional investments into their ventures’ growth and success. With support from entrepreneurial support organizations across the state, this will become a routine activity.”

The Venture Center’s Wayne Miller expressed excitement about collaborating statewide and ensuring all Arkansas entrepreneurs know the available resources.

“We are incredibly proud of the courageous entrepreneurs who joined The BIG Pitch and celebrate the power of collaboration with the organizations who helped make this important event a success,” said Wayne Miller, Executive Director of The Venture Center. “Entrepreneurs of color have long faced significant barriers to building their businesses. While we work at this every day, it’s great to see many organizations from across the state collaborate during this particularly vulnerable time.”

The fifteen selected pitch participants attended one-on-one training sessions with mentors from Venture Noire, The Venture Center, Earnest Sweat of Great Point Ventures, and “Shark Tank” casting director Brandon Andrews. After delivering a two-minute pitch, each entrepreneur fielded questions from a panel of judges including The Venture Center’s Mimi San Pedro, Wright Lindsey Jennings’ Antwan Phillips, Innovation Hubs’ Dr. Chris Jones, Sam’s Club’s Doris Davis, and Frost’s Kalebyra Mitchell. 

Bentonville’s Graham Cobb also weighed in on fostering inclusive entrepreneurship:

“The spirit of entrepreneurship runs deep in the veins of Bentonville. Socio-economic situations do not limit great ideas. Unfortunately, access to capital, mentorship and other resources needed for success has been,” said Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Graham Cobb. “The Big Pitch is a key piece of programming in our partnership with Venture Noire, which focuses on inclusive entrepreneurship. We are proud to help continue the work.” 

All 15 pitch participants are doing business in Arkansas, have been operating for one year or more, and are owned by a person of color. To learn more about The BIG Pitch, visit


About Venture Noire

Venture Noire is a diversity, equity, and inclusion partner, formed to build confidence and profitability in underrepresented founders. We work with industry experts across marketing, chain supply, and product development to design unique curriculums that build and scale world-class business. 

About The Venture Center

The Venture Center’s immersive accelerator programs are designed to accelerate the growth of early-stage companies and help them validate their solutions for real-world problems. Our methodology provides a unique opportunity to connect with community bank executives, receive seed investment, and learn from a comprehensive curriculum that will aid in strategically addressing go-to-market, business, and finance challenges.

About The Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce

The Bentonville Chamber was formed in 1926 and became the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce in 1979. In 2017, the Chamber became the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce is to serve our members as the voice of the business community; to promote planned economic growth; to foster community interaction and provide information, leadership, and support to the Bentonville area.The Chamber is an independent, non-profit business organization representing the Bentonville area. It’s an organization with 1,000 members and is governed by a 16-member Board of Directors that is representative of the range of businesses among the organization’s membership. The Chamber is operated by a staff of eight, and it is not run by the city, county or state.