NEW BRITAIN – INI Sips, a coffee shop downtown, captured first-place in the Girls for Technology - Building for Equity Pitch Competition Accelerator program.
“I heard about it through Sabrina (Tucker-Barrett) who runs and is the CEO of Girls for Technology,” said Davina Ismail, INI Sips co-owner. “She mentioned that she was doing it and that we would be a good fit and to sign up because we were a small business still in the startup phase and she said this would be a great way to get some more business knowledge and also have an opportunity to win some money as well.”
The accelerator provided small businesses with education, tips and to hear to from guest speakers from other businesses.
“All of the sessions were online through Zoom twice a week and the competition itself was at the Society Room in Hartford,” Ismail said. “Throughout the program we were given the tools to put together the pitch and really understand our businesses; be able to be concise and be able to understand what points are important for people that may be interested in investing our company; what they might like to hear about your business and the potential for your business to grow.”
On Nov. 11 the business owners gave a two-minute presentation where they had to pitch their business to a panel of judges.
“It was very nerve wrecking but exciting at the same time,” Ismail said. “I did a synopsis of our journey, opening our shop in January of 2020 and then closing it in March of 2020, and having to rethink and redo our business model based on the pandemic and how we were able to grow throughout that time by actually reinventing ourselves while also continuing to give back to the community and the different nonprofits and organizations that we gave back to. I showed how we’ve been able to move on and grow in retail locations other than our own, like in multiple Big Y locations, several family-owned shops and museums around Connecticut and North Carolina and online. I talked about what we could do with the funding if we were to win and what we would do with it.”
The business owners had to also go through three minutes of Q&A with the judges.
“They asked great questions, but my goal was to put as much info in my two-minute pitch as possible so I wouldn’t have too many questions at the end of it,” Ismail said.
The judges ultimately came together to select the top three businesses: 1. INI Sips 2. The Ital Juicery Co. 3. Cranford Inc. Crowd. The winners were awarded prizes of $10,000, $5,000 and $3,000, respectively.
“Honestly, I was really surprised but excited; there were so many great pitches, everybody nailed it, and everybody answered their questions that day, so it was interesting to see that we won,” Ismail said. “But we also know how hard we’ve worked over the last year and a half, so it definitely did feel full circle.”
Ismail said most of the money is going to go toward inventory to increase the amount of product available at any given time in the different locations. They will also use it to work on their website and get extra help to do some things that are needed to keep the business moving forward as it continues to grow.
“Girls For Technology decided to do a Building for Equity Pitch Competition with the premise that a lot of times small businesses that are Black owned or minority owned don’t get access to venture capitalist funding and that kind of thing,” Ismail said. “There are great programs like Girls for Technology putting this together the pitch competition was a great opportunity for all of the small businesses that were a part of it and we’re thankful to all of our customers that keep spreading the word about our business and helping us to grow throughout the last couple of years.”
Girls For Technology, Inc. is a STEM program committed to closing the technology and engineering gender gap for girls. It partners with schools and other community providers to inspire girls to realize their potential in the fields of technology and engineering.
INI Sips is located at 53 Columbus Blvd Suite 1E and can be found online at inisips.com.
Ciara Hooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-893-4592