Community

Local entrepreneurs pitch ideas to judges and public Friday

Monique Johnson will pitch her small business, Fortitude Fitness, and compete for a cash award Friday during the Empower GoDaddy and Jane Boyd Community House event. Johnson launched her fitness app last year that provides flexible, personalized workouts for at home or in the gym. (Jane Boyd Community House photo)
Monique Johnson will pitch her small business, Fortitude Fitness, and compete for a cash award Friday during the Empower GoDaddy and Jane Boyd Community House event. Johnson launched her fitness app last year that provides flexible, personalized workouts for at home or in the gym. (Jane Boyd Community House photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Local entrepreneurs will turn their dream business into a reality with one artful “pitch.”

A partnership between Jane Boyd Community House and Empower by GoDaddy will present its first “crowd pitch” Friday at Mount Mercy University CRST International Graduate Center, 1650 Matterhorn Dr. NE. The pitch allows the budding entrepreneurs to pitch their business to a panel of judges and community members to win a cash award for their business.

Judges will select a winner based on their ability to impact the community, profitability outlook and their long-term vision. The audience also will have the opportunity to weigh in. The event is free and open to the public.   

“Two of the biggest problems for any business are obscurity and capital,” Maurice Davis, program coordinator, said in a statement. “The crowd pitch is one part of a bigger plan to help solve those problems with business owners who have graduated our program.”

The participants have gone through Empower’s 12-week entrepreneur program, which provides business education, social capital and mentorship, to help their businesses.

“We know that small businesses succeed when there’s the right mix of resources, network and capital,” Stacy Cline, director of corporate citizenship at GoDaddy, said. “For the last two years, we’ve worked hard to bring content, education and people and networks to help undeserved entrepreneurs and we are excited to introduce a capital component to the program.”

Since it began, the entrepreneur program has served more than 100 interested or budding entrepreneurs in Cedar Rapids and its surrounding communities, officials said.   

One participant who will be pitching a small business idea is Monique Johnson, co-owner of Fortitude Fitness. A three-time All-American in college, Johnson, now 27, was always “strong and fit,” program officials said.

“It wasn’t until I gained about 35 pounds that I finally said enough is enough,” Johnson said in a statement. “I had to figure out how to balance work, kids, a social life and health.”

She then got the idea to launch her fitness app that provides flexible, personalized workouts for at home or the gym. The app, which launched in August 2018, shows what that workout should look like, and also tracks an individual’s workouts to show daily progress.

On the app, users also can find a nutrition program that provides all their meals and snacks, Johnson said. It also provide a weekly grocery list and recipes for those meals. The nutrition program can be customized to fit all lifestyles, ranging from keto to vegan and everything in between.

Soon after starting the business, Johnson went through the entrepreneur program to expand her small business, and now she has increased her clients, expanded marketing and her online presence, officials said.

“Though our iterative process of reviewing Monique’s business and systems she was able to identify the areas of her business that needed additional strengthening,” Davis said. “Together we found that if she leverages the natural desires of her customer to be independent, she can increase the value of her personal inputs.”

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

IF YOU GO

l Empower Crowd Pitch

l 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Mount Mercy University CRST International Graduate Center, 1650 Matterhorn Dr. NE, Cedar Rapids

l Free and open to the public

l RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/empower-crowd-pitch-tickets-68297374285

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