The winners of the fourth Union Bank Start-Up Pitch Competition include a business that supports aspiring college students, an online skincare store and a designer of wood artwork.
“These businesses and their founders are integral to the San Diego startup and small business community and the growth of our economy,” said Christina Bibler, San Diego’s director of economic development.
First Gen Scholars, a startup founded by Jonathan Burgos that focuses on helping high school seniors with the college application process, won first place. The business also mentors first-generation college students.
“Jonathan Burgos did an outstanding job showcasing the importance of First Gen Scholars and highlighting the market opportunity and the long-term vision for the company,” said Bruno Rodriguez, branch manager at Union Bank.
Second place went to Charbon Plus, a company that provides African skincare products through an online store led by Lucien Eloundou. The startup won a $5,000 prize.
Oscar Corral’s Hexagon Laser, which specializes in designing and manufacturing wood artwork using laser-engraving and laser-cutting techniques, placed third, with a prize of $2,500.
In addition to the three winners, eight companies competed in the virtual pitch competition and 10 in the program: Baby Diary, BRENTFORDE Media, Challenge Island San Diego Coastal, D.A. Servicing, Girlie Garage, Hola Swim, Sonia’s Healthy Corner, Stuart Matthieu Wealth Management & Insurance Agency, Tabby Manor and Zero to Necessary.
The program is the region’s only accelerator focused on serving low-to-moderate income and diverse founders. Participating businesses four months of free business development and mentorship, including guidance on how to scale their businesses.
“The pitch competition has become a staple of the program and serves as not only an opportunity to win much needed capital, but also as a culmination of the lessons learned during the program,” said Alex Waters, director of Connect All @ the Jacobs Center.
“It’s nice to see how the competition helps the founders to connect the dots to all the parts of the business as they are all interconnected. Also, it’s a way for us to showcase the great work these founders are doing every day. Overall, it is just a great opportunity to shed light on all of the parts a founder puts together to build a business,” he said.
To date, more than 40 companies have participated in Connect All’s program. The accelerator’s long-term goal is to create 100 jobs in low-to-moderate income residential areas.
The program is funded by a $2.5 million community development grant with help from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, MUFG Union Bank N.A. and bkm OfficeWorks.
“There have been quite a few changes since the first competition that we think really make our competition unique,” said Waters. “Our partner Union Bank has increased the total prize money, we split the prize money differently to ensure more cohort members have access to capital, the audience choice award has increased engagement, and the pitches are more uniform.”
“Every cycle we push to make sure we get the best judges and teams have a real opportunity to showcase their companies,” he said. “At the end of the day, I hope that participants walk away with a great sense of pride and accomplishment in what they are building.”