CEI brings expertise to Hornets Innovation Summit presented By Bank of America

Categories: Community, Events

Drawing from extensive research and practical experience, UNC Charlotte’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will provide training for participants in the Hornets Innovation Summit presented by Bank of America, an initiative that supports economic mobility in Charlotte.

Hornets Sports & Entertainment is accepting applications through Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024 for the summit, now in its fourth year. All applicants will receive access to a live investor ready training workshop presented by CEI, designed to assist them as they prepare business pitch decks and conduct customer discovery, along with other entrepreneurship topics. In addition, those who advance to the final round will participate in a live and interactive mentoring session.

“CEI is honored to bring our expertise to this important summit, drawing on what we have learned through our extensive work with students, faculty and community innovators,” said CEI Executive Director Krista Saral. “Our center focuses on research-driven solutions to complex issues and in developing infrastructure that enables entrepreneurs to flourish.”

CEI is based in the Belk College of Business and serves the entire university and broader community with research and programming focused on entrepreneurship and innovation.

Who should apply?

Minority entrepreneurs and businesses that are at least 51% operated and controlled by minority group members (meaning individuals who are at least 25% Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American) and located within 150 miles of Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC, are invited to apply.

Selected applicants will move to the second round to have their one-minute pitch videos posted on hornets.com and social media outlets for fan voting. The finalists, which will be determined through a combination of fan voting and an internal selection committee, will present their business and/or product live at Spectrum Center to a panel of experts in March. The winner of the Hornets Innovation Summit Presented by Bank of America will receive a $15,000 investment from the Charlotte Hornets.

“The Innovation Summit is one of our favorite annual initiatives, and we’re thrilled to again be working with Bank of America to provide social and financial capital to minority entrepreneurs and businesses within our community,” said Hornets Sports & Entertainment Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Betsy Mack. “We’ve met some incredible people doing very impressive work over the past three years, and we are proud to play a small part in their business journey. We look forward to seeing this year’s pitches and meeting more incredible entrepreneurs.”

“We are honored to again partner with the Charlotte Hornets on this significant initiative supporting the economic progress of minority-led small business owners across our community,” said Kieth Cockrell, president, Bank of America Charlotte. “Both organizations are deeply committed to advancing racial equality and economic opportunity, and the Innovation Summit is just one way we’re creating impact in the community.”

Previous winners of the Hornets Innovation Summit Presented by Bank of America have seen success. 2022 winner Elizabeth Escobar ’14, who graduated summa cum laude from Charlotte with a degree in computer engineering, saw a 41% increase in subscribers to her bilingual job platform, Hay Trabajo, and formed partnerships with more than a dozen new businesses and nonprofits, helping them to identify and hire Spanish-speaking or bilingual talent.

Kevin Gatlin, founder and CEO of Playtime Edventures – a unique line of interactive bedsheets and slumber bags for kids – and the recipient of the $15,000 investment in 2023 said, “Winning the competition was a turning point for us, resulting in a significant increase in sales through our website and Amazon.”

This marks the third consecutive year Bank of America has served as the presenting partner of the program, which was launched in conjunction with the Hornets Social Justice Platform in 2021.