Aventi Enterprises competition honors small businesses

Mary Sterenberg
Lorii Wallace, owner of Evolve Productions

In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week in November, Aventi Enterprises launched a virtual business plan competition that it hopes to parlay into an annual affair. The contest invited women and minority business owners to compete for a cash prize, promotion of their business and a certificate. The winning business plan pitch received $1,000 and the runner-up $500.

Seventeen businesses entered the inaugural competition, and five finalists pitched their business plans on a live Zoom session to a panel of judges. Aventi announced the winner and runner-up on Nov. 28, Small Business Saturday.

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Winner: Lorii Wallace, Evolve Productions

Evolve Production creates unique productions and campaigns in partnership with different organizations to raise awareness of social issues using the arts as the focus. The nonprofit produces “edutainment” that combines education with entertainment for the good of the community while developing and showcasing the talent of dancers, singers and other artists in the community.

“I try to look at how I can use the arts to bring awareness to inspire change—even if it’s just someone’s thought process or recognition,” founder Lorii Wallace says.

Evolve has partnered with organizations such as Lifeline of Ohio, the Ohio Diabetes Association and Ohio State University on productions that raised awareness of issues including organ donation, diabetes and human trafficking.

Wallace says using art and performance to raise awareness of societal issues can be more effective because “people will come for a production as opposed to someone just telling them a story about it.”

All productions are created specifically for a partner organization or topic and include dance, the spoken word, original music and singing. Community members volunteer to work the event and participate as artists.

Evolve Production also provides professional and healing workshops using the arts as its focus for individuals who may have been affected by homelessness, trafficking or cancer. “We give them a safe space to create art,” Wallace says.

As next steps for Evolve, Wallace hopes to find consistent space for rehearsals and productions and potentially bring on other staff members. She plans to use competition prize money to support the creation of a company website and production of a mini-film about the year 2020 that could ultimately become a full production. She’s also working to launch an inaugural Grace Awards in August for dance educators, companies and schools.

Runner-up: Anique Russell, Too Good Eats

Too Good Eats sells gourmet frozen popsicles made with 100 percent real fruit and vegetables that include no sugar, water or dairy. The business was founded by two young parents right out of college on a mission to sneak more vegetables into their son’s diet. After watching many family members suffer from chronic health diseases, they were determined to make healthier choices and encourage others to do so as well.

Popsicles include ingredients like kale, celery, apples, pears, lime, mint, jicama and spaghetti squash.

Customers can find Too Good Eats’ gourmet frozen pops at the Hills Downtown Market and City Folks Farm Shop as well as at the Clintonville and New Albany farmers markets. Through the Too Good Eats website, customers can also purchase subscriptions to receive popsicle packs monthly or Juice Pop Re-Set packs with 12 popsicles as a one-day diet cleanse.

Finalist: Valerie Easley, RiseUp Credit Services

RiseUp Credit Services provides clients with financial and credit education through group sessions, one-on-one consultations and a 30-Day Financial Bootcamp. Clients receive live training with the opportunity to ask questions. Every class includes goal setting, financial assessment and a personal credit analysis for each participant.

RiseUp also works with credit bureaus and creditors to challenge the negative report items that affect a client’s credit score. Clients can track status updates on improvements on credit reports and scores live 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Finalist: Jade Burton, Hair by Jade

Jade Burton is an advanced licensed cosmetologist and the owner of Hair by Jade. She specializes in maintaining healthy hair, offering services for natural hair, chemically treated hair and scalp treatments. Her purpose is to provide luxury hair care services, products and knowledge for all hair types. Clients can purchase monthly memberships for monthly shampoo and style services, discounts on services and retail items, priority booking and early access to scheduling. Burton also sells silk bonnets for holding natural hair, braids, weaves, rollers, hair clamps, long hair and up-dos.

Finalist: Marion Gamble, Me2Concepts and Solutions

Me2Concepts and Solutions is an education and development company. It provides consulting to assist with changing employee behavior and programs that foster healthy social norms for businesses and communities. Its programs include performance management strategies, “For the Love of B.A.E.” focusing on healthy relationship skills, “Professional Me” on business etiquette, and “Sorry Not Sorry” on social and emotional intelligence.

Anique Russell, owner of Too Good Eats