black ambition awards
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Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition Awards

$3.2 million awarded to black entrepreneurs by Williams' nonprofit.

Pharrell Williams’ nonprofit dedicated to uplifting black and Hispanic entrepreneurs, Black Ambition, awards $1 million to Antoinette Banks, CEO and Founder of Expert IEP, a parent-facing app that optimizes existing Individualized Education Plans with predictive AI for children diagnosed with a disability, as the Grand Prize Winner of its 2023 Prize competition at the third-annual “Demo Day” event held on Thursday, November 9th at Spring Studios in New York, NY. Other Top Prize Winners include ECOMSPACES, a one-stop-shop for e-commerce solutions ranging from product photography to order fulfillment, and HBCU Grand Prize Winner, Monocle, a social e-reader that creates a community-focused reading experience, who were awarded with $250,000 and $200,000, respectively, towards their ventures – in addition to 33 other prize recipients who also received monetary prizes.

Demo Day 2023 celebrated the monumental milestone of more than 100 entrepreneurs funded since Black Ambition’s inception in 2020. This year, over 2,000 applicants began their journey on either the General or HBCU Prize track. Participating founders represented companies within five distinct categories: Consumer Products and Services, Healthcare, Media and Entertainment, Technology, and Web 3.0. Black Ambition narrowed the competition down to 50 finalists and then condensed even further to the top 36. This year, the 36 top finalists all received Prize awards ranging from $20,000 – $250,000. The final eight finalists had the opportunity to pitch live on stage for the chance to win the grand prize of $1,000,000.

Following the pitching presentations, Black Ambition CEO Felecia Hatcher and Warby Parker Co-CEO David Gilboa joined founder Pharrell Williams onstage. They discussed their respective entrepreneurial and leadership journeys and provided insights to new entrepreneurs. Additionally, prior year Black Ambition prize winners including Kadidja Dosso of Dosso Beauty (2021 HBCU Grand Prize Winner) & Karissma Yve of Gildform (a 2022 General Prize Winner) participated in a conversation moderated by Glenise Kinard-Moore, Founder and CEO of Skiimoo Tech (2022 2nd place General Prize Winner), discussing their entrepreneurial journey & business successes since winning investments.

OFFICIAL 2023 demo day
Image of Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, Leo Creer, Co-Founder and CTO of Expert IEP, Grand Prize Winner Antoinette Banks, CEO and Founder of Expert IEP, and Pharrell Williams, Founder of Black Ambition (from left to right)

More than an award – an investment in black opportunity

“Black Ambition is a feeling, it’s an overwhelming drive to show up consistently in excellence to create lasting, unapologetic impact. For so long Black and Brown kids with learning differences have been underestimated and forgotten. Earning this $1M prize puts our kids back in the forefront, it gets people thinking deeply about solving the problems in special education. As founder and CEO, I am deeply grateful to Black Ambition for believing in me, holding space for me, and breaking down barriers. It’s clear that Black Ambition is more than a prize award, it’s a shift in expectation for our culture.”- Grand Prize Winner Antoinette Banks, CEO and Founder of Expert IEP.

Black Ambition is dedicated to closing the opportunity and wealth gap by empowering Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Through its extensive virtual training initiatives and events, the organization has provided invaluable support to over 5,000 founders. To date, Black Ambition has awarded funding and resources to 101 Prize Winners and supported an additional 750 entrepreneurs with mentorship to strengthen their ventures. Black Ambition awarded approximately 10 million dollars to finalists.

Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, expressed her excitement about Demo Day and the organization’s impactful journey. She said, “Demo Day is a powerful testament to the transformative potential of the Black Ambition Prize. The support of our brand partners, like Louis Vuitton, Adidas, Valor Equity Partners, and Spring Studios, as well as the dedication of our esteemed judges, underscores our commitment to nurturing Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Our impact, illustrated by the 36 top finalists, is a testament to the tangible change we’re creating for underserved communities. We’re proud to announce this year’s winners and to celebrate the remarkable journey of Black Ambition.”

The Black Ambition Prize has always been about impact and is more than a monetary reward. In addition to mentorship, Prize Winners will receive resources and connections to additional investors and funding. Awardees also receive bi-weekly office hours with leaders in marketing, PR, and brand building with brands such as Heineken, Snapchat, Netflix, and others.

Winning recipients attend town hall meetings with Pharrell and receive life coaching and therapeutic workshops, both in groups and 1-on-1, encouraging a holistic career approach. Previous participating founders have shared that they are now more confident in pitching their business to other investors. They are grateful for the opportunity to meet new investors through Black Ambition’s network and invite-only company events.

Black Ambition has been recognized by Forbes, Essence, Bloomberg, and many more for driving meaningful change. It also was the winner of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Award for Impact Investing. They are excited to be funding the entrepreneurs who are shaping the future.

A list of the 36 winners is here.

About Black Ambition

Founded by Pharrell Williams in 2020, Black Ambition empowers Black and Hispanic innovators and communities to excel, uninterrupted. To date, Black Ambition has awarded approximately $6M to 65 innovative entrepreneurs. Black Ambition network founders have gone on to raise more than $92M collectively.

This endeavor has been recognized by Forbes, Essence, Complex and many more for driving meaningful change. It also was the winner of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Award for Impact Investing. Applications for the 2024 annual Black Ambition Prize competition will open in February 2024. For more information on Black Ambition, please visit www.blackambitionprize.com

About Louis Vuitton

Since 1854, Louis Vuitton has brought unique designs to the world. Louis Vuitton combines innovation with style, always aiming for the finest quality concerning biodiversity. Today, the House remains faithful to the spirit of its founder, Louis Vuitton, who invented a genuine “Art of Travel” through luggage, bags and accessories that were as creative as they were elegant and practical. Since then, audacity has shaped the story of Louis Vuitton. Faithful to its heritage, Louis Vuitton has opened its doors to architects, artists and designers over the years. All the while developing disciplines such as ready-to-wear, shoes, accessories, watches, jewelry, and fragrance. These carefully created products are a testament to Louis Vuitton’s commitment to fine craftsmanship.

For further information: www.louisvuitton.com

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