Innovative BIPOC Entrepreneurs Take Center Stage at Pitch Black 2024

This year’s Pitch Black event marks the first time the Midlands African Chamber hosted a conference alongside the annual pitch competition. The 2024 Pitch Black Conference and Tech Showcase attracted a diverse group of entrepreneurs, and one lucky startup walked away with $10,000 for their business.

Caring Expertise CEO Shanae Nared, CFO Sheree Nelson and COO Breonna Kellogg pose at the 2024 Pitch Black Conference and Tech Showcase.

Caring Expertise, a non-medical homecare company started in Omaha in January, took home the $10,000 grand prize at the fourth annual Pitch Black Conference and Tech Showcase, hosted by the Midlands African Chamber (MAC) and presented by Google. The event convened entrepreneurs from Nebraska and Iowa under the theme of Digital Disruption: Unleashing Opportunities for BIPOC Entrepreneurs.

This year’s Pitch Black event marks the first time MAC has hosted a conference alongside the pitch competition. The event was held at the Creighton University Harper Center on Saturday, June 29, and included breakout sessions and keynotes. Robert Blackwell, Jr., founder of Quant16, and Aasiyah Abdulsalam, founder and CEO of The Renatural, were the keynote speakers.

Presentations covered topics like advice for navigating the startup journey and using artificial intelligence in your business.

More than 40 companies applied to participate in the 2024 Pitch Black competition. The companies went through three preliminary rounds to narrow it down to five finalists. MAC Founder and CEO Karine Sokpoh said the pitch competition aligns with MAC’s ongoing mission to connect with innovative BIPOC-led companies in Nebraska and Iowa. 

The 2024 Pitch Black finalists were:

Each business had five minutes to pitch their business plan and future goals, and then five minutes to answer questions from a panel of community judges. 

Nina Austin, founder of Love Yo Pup, an organic dog treats company.

Among the stand-out pitches was Love Yo Pup, a dog treat company made from natural and organic ingredients sourced from local farmers, homesteaders and growers. During the presentation Austin took a bite of her homemade elk-flavored dog treat to showcase the high quality ingredients.

“If I won’t eat it, they won’t eat it.”

Presented by Wong, Tippl is an app that gets users a free drink every day to incentivize bringing customers into Omaha restaurants. The app was a fan favorite and awarded $5,000 after receiving the most votes from members of the audience. 

SunFlare Brands and Love Yo Pup finished fifth and fourth place, respectively, and each received a $1,000 prize. Chalice Health was awarded third place, receiving a $2,500 prize. Tippl received second place, winning $5,000.

Tippl CEO Mark Wong talks to attendees at the 2024 Pitch Black event.

The top prize of $10,000 and in-kind support including essential business services like marketing, legal counsel and accounting expertise—went to Kellogg and Nared at Caring Expertise. The company provides non-medical homecare to help prevent individuals from going into long-term care facilities. 

After the celebration, hugs and a few tears, Kellogg admitted that she went in feeling like the underdog in the competition. “This money is going to help fund marketing and get our name out here so we could be right at home,” she added.

Caring Expertise started in January and currently has 10 clients and 18 pending clients, the founders said.

In their pitch, the Caring Expertise founders highlighted the importance of care in local communities. Offering a wide range of personalized services, including companionship, transportation, medication management, grocery shopping, light housekeeping, laundry, advocacy, meal preparation,and personal care, the service enhances the quality of life for their clients.

“It has always been my passion, my goal, to care for others,” Nared said.

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