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10 finalists announced for Black & Brown Business Summit Pitch Competition

The West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce (WDM Chamber) has announced the 10 finalists that will be competing for part of a $40,000+ grand prize at the Athene Black & Brown Business Summit (Athene Summit) pitch competition next week.

With 45 total applicants, finalists were selected by a panel of judges based on components of their application including a one-minute video pitching their company.

The 10 finalists are:

  • A Little Buzzed
  • Autistic & Loved, LLC
  • Dae-licious Delights
  • Dupee Consulting Group LLC
  • Evry Intention LLC
  • Iowa Media Co.
  • Light Pong
  • Lumena Energy Inc.
  • Mountain High Jz Coffee LLC
  • Stagerie, Inc.

All applicants to the Athene Summit pitch competition are invited to attend workshops throughout the day on Thursday, April 21. Programming includes panels on business success, mentor roundtables and workshops, one of which will be facilitated by Erik Dominguez, a competitor from the 2021 pitch competition.

“The Black & Brown Business Summit was one of the highlights of my professional career giving me the opportunity to share my story and my goals with others and being supported in my mission,” said Dominguez. “I am honored and excited to be back this year as a speaker to encourage and empower other entrepreneurs to feel confident and excited about pitching their business and showcasing their talents to our community!”

The pitch competition will be held on Thursday, April 21 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. at Athene. Attendance in person is invitation only, but the competition will be available to view via livestream. The pitch competition will be judged by a panel of business professionals and the winner will be announced the following day of the summit from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

10 finalists announced for Black & Brown Business Summit Pitch Competition | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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