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The BIG Pitch and BIG Potential

By Ashley Jones, Managing Director, Community Programs at The Venture Center

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, flexibility and adaptability have been critical for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The old saying, “The wind does not break the tree that bends,” is especially relevant to today's small business owners who have changed their services to adapt to their customers’ changing needs and have changed their operations to extend the staying power of their businesses. Still, as some businesses have been inevitably hit harder than others, the question of how far they must bend to survive remains.

Due to many factors, the extreme economic downturn has dramatically affected entrepreneurs and small business owners of color. As we work together to support small businesses in our local community, we do need an intentional focus on African American, LatinX, Asian, Indian, Pacific Islander, Native American and multi-racial businesses.

Tyler Hale at Arkansas Money & Politics recently shared compelling information. “Both the Brookings Institution and consulting firm McKinsey & Company have noted that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely disproportionately impact minority small business owners, including entrepreneurs of color. Both companies note that entrepreneurs will have more difficulty accessing capital.”

In a report on black-owned small businesses, McKinsey researchers state, "Black-owned businesses face more hurdles in accessing liquidity and support services. Black- and minority-owned businesses that continue to operate during and after the recession are about 60 percent less likely than their peers to receive 100 percent of the financing they need, which puts them at additional risk of failure.”

Statistics like these leave many wondering how they can help out. Thankfully, we live in a state with a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, and together we can find impactful ways to help - like through The BIG Pitch!

The BIG Pitch is a brand new pitch competition created explicitly for entrepreneurs of color and boasts the state's biggest pitch prize pool. By simply logging on and participating in this virtual pitch competition on Thursday, June 4, you'll be a tremendous support to business owners who are working hard to sustain their companies.

Created by Venture Noire, in partnership with the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce and The Venture Center, The BIG Pitch has garnered immense interest from across the state.

We've sorted through nearly 100 applications and have chosen the 15 most promising companies in three classifications:

  • Class 1 - $5,000 prize | $1 - $25,000 yearly in annual recurring revenue
  • Class 2 - $10,000 prize | $25,001 - $50,000 in annual recurring revenue
  • Class 3 - $15,000 prize | $50,001 - $25,000 in annual recurring revenue

Before the competition, selected participants will have a one-on-one coaching session with a panel of mentors. In addition to valuable feedback on pitches, these sessions will help the participants grow their professional networks and gain confidence that could take them over the top and to a $15,000 prize!

In other words, an intentional focus on supporting entrepreneurs of color is critical today. The BIG Pitch will provide a much-needed cash flow injection for the winners, but all participants will walk away with connections and an expanded network to lean on throughout these tough times. Please be sure to register to watch The BIG Pitch on Thursday, June 4, at 3 p.m., and vote for your favorite entrepreneur in each category. Sign up at We can't wait to see you there!

Need more information?

If you have questions about how the chamber can help your business or how you can get involved in growing our regional economy, drop us a line.