SEA Change inaugural organizations pitch their ideas for $50,000 in funding

The SEA Change Happen event at Idea Center On Monday was a success, with all eight enterprises receiving a portion of the $50,000-plus grant money. Rust Belt Riders received the most grant money, with $20,000, while the Vineyards and Biocellar of Chateau Hough received $15,000 and was voted crowd favorite. Upcycle Parts Shop received $10,000 and Modern Good received $5,000. KnotProfitTigressHonor Good Deeds and GiveNext each received $1,000.

Seventy-five social enterprises applied to be in the inaugural SEA Change accelerator program, a collaboration between Civic Commons Ideastream, ECDI, LaunchHouse, Hispanic Business Center and others. The goal of the program is to provide coaching and capital to people with business ideas that will improve their communities. Thirteen participants were selected for the program.
On Monday, April 6th, the remaining eight enterprises will participate in SEA Change Happen and present their concepts in a pitch competition to earn $50,000 in grant funding.
“They’ve all made remarkable progress,” says Mike Shafarenko, Civic Commons Ideastream director. “Each of them came in at a different stage. Some were already setting things up or active in the community, some of them came in with just an idea.
The participants went through a six-week accelerator and twelve-week pitch practice program. They received training on how to maximize social impact, develop a unique and compelling value proposition, assess potential customers and competitors in the social and commercial markets, build financial projections and create marketing and sales plans. Ultimately, they each wrote a social enterprise plan.

The eight organizations that made it through the entire accelerator program then practiced their pitches in a variety of settings. Shafarenko says the prize money may be split between a few of the eight participants, or could go to just one winner.

The eight finalists include GiveNext, an online program to make and track charitable donations; KnotProfit, which offers ways to create a charitable wedding registry; and Rust Belt Riders, which collects organic waste and turns it into compost.

“No matter what, they’re all remarkable programs,” he says. “It’s important to nurture and empower people who have ideas to improve the community period. We’re in an era of ideas that are self-sustaining."

The sold out event takes place at Idea Center at Playhouse Square from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today, Monday, April 6th.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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