Albertson’s Viscardi Center hosted its second annual National Center for Disability Entrepreneurship Virtual PitchFest on Nov. 19 to help people with disabilities support their own businesses.
The event allows entrepreneurs with disabilities from around the country to share their business ideas with a panel of four judges. Winners receive mentorship packages and grants worth up to $75,000.
The competition maintains the center’s mission to “empower innovative self-starters to achieve self-employment success,” according to a press release.
This year, the top three cash prizes went to Calvette Brown for her business The Guiders Shield, Miguel Angel Davila for DAVILA Applied Anthropological Research and L. Darnell Williams for L. Darnell Insights. The three winners won $10,000, $8,000 and $5,000, respectively.
Alongside the first place prize, Brown, whose business is a patent-pending solution to safe guiding for vulnerable populations, also was voted the Audience Favorite by those attending virtually.
She received both a 30-minute mentoring session from Hello Alice, a multi-channel platform that helps small businesses obtain funding and a mentorship package from CELA Innovation, worth $25,000 in value.
Davila, who is bridging the equity gap for minority-owned businesses and organizations, alongside his $8,000 grant, received a mentorship package from UNI Communications worth $20,000 in value.
Regarding the second annual event, Sheryl P. Buchel, Interim President and CEO at the Viscardi Center, said business owners open up avenues for those with disabilities in traditional settings.
“Entrepreneurship offers a strategic pathway for people with disabilities to overcome the many barriers that exist within the traditional employment model,” said Buchel. “A natural extension of The Viscardi Center’s mission, the National Center for Disability Entrepreneurship empowers innovative self-starters with the tools they need to achieve self-employment success.”
Today, the school located in Viscardi Center enrolls more than 180 students with disabilities with nearly an 86 percent graduation and college acceptance rate. For adults and adolescents, transition planning services are available for testing and job placement.
The programs place more than 100 people in integrated employment annually while also providing advocacy and support beyond participants leaving the center.
A previous version of this article was published. It has since been updated