On June 2, reSET presented the 2020 Venture Showcase virtually. Adjusting to the “new normal” of quarantine, the annual Venture Showcase still featured the top startups from reSET’s Impact Accelerator, a group of impact-minded entrepreneurs based in Connecticut, as they pitched their business ideas to an audience of more than 120 guests and competed for up to $10,000 in award money.
The Accelerator models functions like a mini business school. The prerequisites for participation are proof of concept or ability to create revenue from the business model. The program costs are covered almost entirely by contributions from partners including Travelers and CTNext.
Keeping this program free for startups helps bootstrapping founders put their resources back into the business. In selecting startups to participate, reSET intentionally seeks out entrepreneurs of color and women, who are significantly underrepresented within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This year, reSET recruited startups all from within Connecticut to support local entrepreneurs who would stay in the state, bringing jobs and revenue to the communities here.
The four-month Impact Accelerator kicked off January 15, 2020 and had to pivot its originally planned in-person summits when COVID-19 hit mid-March. reSET quickly moved the program to a virtual format meeting on Zoom for the remaining gatherings without a hitch.
Three community leaders served as judges for the Venture Showcase. Jay Williams, President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Moraima Gutierrez, Assistant District Director for Economic Development/Media Relations Specialist at the Connecticut Small Business Administration (CTSBA), and Dorothy Adams, Impact Investor and Board Chair of Capital for Change, provided valuable feedback and commentary to the five pitching businesses. The judges and audience posed questions and suggestions to each startup. Founders had the chance to illustrate their knowledge, answering questions like, “What’s your digital product revenue model?” and “How do you add value to the already competitive landscape of service providers?”
This year’s awards went to the following reSET entrepreneurs:
- 1st Prize/$5,000 – Jennifer and Ray Smithberger, Co-Founders of seedership, a social impact and storytelling digital platform that helps businesses identify and measure the good they do in their communities.
- 2nd Prize/$3,500 – Jaclyn Carter, Founder of A Spirit of Joy Organic Skin Care, handcrafted organic and vegan skin care West Hartford products for all ages and skin types based in West Hartford.
- 3rd Prize/$1,500 – Nichole Hawkins, Founder of Legacy Lineage, an early childcare learning and family support service that provides digital content for remote learning.
- Audience Choice Award – Sharol Signorelli, Founder of FunAbilities, the world’s first destination search service that connects people with disabilities to businesses that serve them.