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Winner Named in Southeast Raleigh Innovation Challenge Pitch Competition:

A Partnership between Wake County, City of Raleigh, Southeast Raleigh Promise and United Way of the Greater Triangle

More than 200 people filled a room at Raleigh’s Convention Center Friday night as they listened to the final pitches in the Southeast Raleigh Innovation Challenge. Participants made their pitches to a panel of judges, fellow community members, and dignitaries including Regina Petteway, Director of Wake County Human Services; Commissioner James West; and City Councilman, Corey Branch.

The event was the culmination of a four-month process starting with initial concept pitches by 53 groups in July, a business accelerator and coaching process, and ending with business pitches by the five final participants. The total prize pool was over $100,000.

The Challenge’s overall winner was Lydia Newman with her business Word of God Christian Academy Tech Career Pathways. Lydia’s business proposal is to increase tech job skills and college prep for Southeast Raleigh students in grades 8-12. These “Tech Ambassadors” will develop culturally relevant tech-related activities.

Second place went to Major Best for Barber School. His proposal was to create a barber college that brings resources and job opportunities to the community. His focus will be on at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated individuals. In addition to job skills, participants will also receive training on life skills and overall career preparation. An added benefit to the community is the Barber School will offer $5 haircuts.

The audience was able to give their input into a People’s Choice award. The winner was Jana Avery for No Friday’s for Music, a nonprofit centered on the artistic and personal development of Southeast Raleigh youth, focused skill development to work in the music industry. Overall, Jana’s pitch came in third.

Each of the five pitch presentations received a financial award to help launch their business concept. The other two pitches included Malikia Robertson for Yoga4Us; and Keschia Martin for Players2Pros.

Seed capital awards were given to the following individuals and their projects: Brandy Burnett for Smart Money Matters, Fernando Martinez for Education Justice Alliance Peacebuilders, Wilma Metcalf for The Baby Box, Nathaniel Myers for The Malkuta Project, and Darryel Washington for Front and Back 9 Junior Golf Academy.

“I’m excited for our continued work with the winners, as they develop their ideas and begin implementing elements of their proposals. I’m hopeful that these ideas, led by the community, are a spark for a thriving and growing Southeast Raleigh that presents opportunities for success for everyone who lives and works there” stated Britney McCoy, from United Way of the Greater Triangle and member of the co-design team.

The competition’s judges included: Zurilma Anuel from the Carolina Small Business Development Fund; LaChaun Banks from NC Growth – Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise; Bill O’Boyle of North State Consulting; Michael Leach from the Governor’s Office of Public Engagement; and Kendrick Williams of the John Wall Family Foundation.
The evening was filled with high-energy cheers and applause as each participant pitched his or her idea. Mikaya Thurmond, a television reporter from WRAL was the evening’s MC. While the judges deliberated on the competition’s winning pitch, the audience was entertained and inspired by keynote speaker, Greg Hill.

About the Southeast Raleigh Innovation Challenge
United Way of the Greater Triangle, Wake County, the City of Raleigh, and Southeast Raleigh Promise – in partnership with a Co-Design Team of community leaders sponsored this first Southeast Raleigh Social Innovation Challenge. The purpose of the Challenge was to fund ideas to help bring jobs, resources, and support for innovation to help fuel the economic engine that is vital to this historic part of Raleigh.

The Challenge engaged community residents, small businesses, nonprofits, faith-based groups, youth and other organizations within the 27601, 27603, and 27610 zip codes with identifying solutions to economic and social issues within their community that are innovative yet practical.

A six-week accelerator program, managed through Carolina Small Business Development Fund, helped semi-finalists prepare for their final pitch.

About Southeast Raleigh
*Raleigh—continuously cited as one of the best places to live in America—is ranked #88 out of 100 largest cities nationwide in distressed communities. The zone of deepest need sits squarely in Southeast Raleigh with nearly 10,000 people facing low educational attainment, high unemployment, and staggering poverty levels. Nationwide, there is a recognition that the people best suited to create solutions to address these issues are those who live and work there. The Southeast Raleigh Challenge was designed to encourage community-level solutions.

*Source: Economic Innovation Group, February 2016; Data: EIG analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data

Photos (attached): Lydia Newman, after being named the winner, at the center of the celebration; final pitch participants w/ MC Mikaya Thurmond (L to R – Major Best, Jana Avery, Lydia Newman, Malikia Robertson, Keschia Martin, Mikaya Thurmond); winners with co-design team members; audience members.

About United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT)
United Way actively mobilizes the caring power of communities to build resources, focus investments, and foster partnerships to improve lives and inspire generations of achievement in four North Carolina counties: Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake. A focus on children and their families in low-income households uses a collaborative, two-generational approach to dramatically change the course of their futures. Learn more at  

2400 Perimeter Park Drive, Suite 150 | Morrisville, North Carolina 27560

Media Contact:
Stacy Shelp, VP of Marketing & Communications
Office:  919-463-5013

Photo Credit: United Way of the Greater Triangle


Photo Credit: United Way of the Greater Triangle


Photo Credit: Troy Thomas, Thomas Photography


Photo Credit: Troy Thomas, Thomas Photography