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Athene Black & Brown Business Summit Pitch Competition now accepting applications

The West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce is now accepting applications for the 2023 Athene Black & Brown Business Summit (BBBS) pitch competition, brought to you by exclusive pitch competition partner Bank of America.

Applicants to the 2023 Athene BBBS pitch competition must be 51% minority-owned, have been in business for at least two years and be a for-profit business. Those who are selected will be invited to participate on April 20 in small business workshops featuring area experts. Applicants also have the opportunity to win part of a cash prize given to the companies with the best pitches. Over the last two years, pitch competition winners have received a total of $52,000 in prize money.

“The West Des Moines Chamber Black & Brown Business Summit pitch competition is a great opportunity for minority-owned businesses to propel towards success,” said Annie Brandt, senior vice president, market executive, Bank of America Iowa. “We’re excited and honored to partner with the West Des Moines Chamber again for this amazing opportunity.” 

The 2022 pitch competition saw 40 minority businesses participate, with ten of them winning cash prizes. Winners included Lumena Energy at first place winning $12,000, Autistic & Loved at second place winning $10,000 and Stagerie, Inc. at third place winning $6,000. Additional pitch winners won $2,000 and included A Little Buzzed, Dae-licious Delights, Dupee Consulting Group LLC, Evry Intention LLC, Iowa Media Co., Light Pong, and Mountain High Jz Coffee LLC. 

“Since being awarded money from the Athene Black and Brown Business competition, my business has taken off,” said Shar Roorda, owner of A Little Buzzed. “I feel so blessed to be part of such a special organization that partners with people of color to help them realize their dreams. I learned so much from this process and experience. The people involved were so positive and encouraging. It was evident that this event was made to propel people forward.”

The deadline to submit applications is Wednesday, March 1 by 5 p.m.

Athene Black & Brown Business Summit Pitch Competition now accepting applications | 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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