The L.A. Black Investors Club and Sip & Sonder host this quarterly competition.
By Megan Reed
Shanita Nicholas and Amanda-Jane Thomas have made a positive impact in Inglewood and South Los Angeles since they moved to the area from New York City. The two attorneys founded Sip & Sonder coffee shop in Inglewood and The L.A. Black Investors Club (LABIC). On March 18, they will host the next Black Business Pitch Competition. The event typically takes place at Sip & Sonder, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition will be held online.
This type of event is in line with Sip & Sonder’s mantra, which is, “For the Community, For the Culture.”
The mission of the LABIC, which is a 501c3 non-profit organization, is to inform, exchange, and foster the development of entrepreneurial ventures through serving as a conduit to venture creation, capitalization, and capacity building for diverse communities. Through programming, the LABIC strives to address the community's lack of access and exposure to resources, knowledge, investors, mentors, partners, and clients in order to build a framework for individual and collective wealth creation.
“What that means to us is providing access to resources, access to capital, and access to a network,” Nicholas said.
Nicholas and Thomas knew a lot of small-business owners before they launched these endeavors, but they noticed that those entrepreneurs did not have the resources to grow. The business owners lacked capital, as well as other vital resources.
“There’s a lot of innovation in our own communities,” Thomas said. “The issue is that there’s not the resources; the access to mentors, partners, customers, clients, and colleagues that these businesses actually need to refine their business ideas, to get their businesses off the ground, and then the ongoing support that they need to achieve success.”
The LABIC hosts the Black Business Pitch Competition quarterly. At this event, which was launched in 2017, entrepreneurs submit their business plans, and roughly 10 entrepreneurs are selected to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges, who are typically venture capitalists and business owners.
“The goal is that this serves as a launch pad for the entrepreneurs,” Thomas said. “Not just for the winners. Everyone who competes, they experience the process of actually putting their business idea forward and pitching before a panel of experts, and then a rigorous Q&A session. That’s something that’s valuable.”
The entrepreneurs are able to hear valuable feedback about their idea, pitch, and business plan. For many of the competitors, this is the first time that they have given a business pitch.
African Americans trail other races in nearly every business category, and other races do a lot of business in Black communities. Black dollars do not stay in Black communities for very long, and business owners who come from outside of the communities may not have the community’s and people’s best interest at heart, which is why it is important that Black people own businesses in their own communities.
“There’s an inherent bias when a person operates their business,” Nicholas said. “When owners in the community look like the people in the community, there’s still a bias, but the bias is toward the community, and toward what’s needed in that particular environment.”
For more information about entering the competition or viewing it online, visit www.lablackinvestorsclub.org and follow them on Instagram. Sip & Sonder is located at 108 S. Market Street. Visit their website at www.sipandsonder.com, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.