Pit bulls, college help and a ‘porn movie.’ Meet the 2016 SEED20 award winners

I’m going to say this quickly and get out of the way: If you go to the SEED20 OnStage pitch competition and leave uninspired, check your pulse.

I didn’t envy the judges who had to pick winners from that passionate group of finalists at the 2016 event Monday night at the Knight Theater.


What’s SEED20?

SEED20 is an annual program that selects 20 nonprofit entrepreneurs, gives them two months of training, coaching and mentoring, culminating in SEED20 OnStage, where up to 10 finalists make a three-minute pitch for funding with no scripts, presentations or props.

The nonprofits are vying for five prizes worth a total of $55,000. There’s a coaches award, second and third place prizes awarded by a panel of five judges, and a grand prize voted on by the audience at the live pitch event.

This is SEED20’s fifth year and more people than ever before packed into Knight Theater to watch the pitches Monday.

Now let’s get onto this year’s nonprofits:

Priceless Misc Digital Impact Award: Focus Charlotte

Who: Steve Parker.

What: Provides educational support services to the children of Montagnard refugees.

Prize: $10,000 worth of web/video services.

(Focus Charlotte was a semifinalist and didn’t give a pitch Monday.)

Coaches Award: Southside Rides Foundation

Who: David Michael Moore.

What: Educational automotive programs for incarcerated and at-risk citizens, intended to promote employment and guidance. Moore said 32 men who went through the program now have their own auto shops.

In his words: Moore talked about how he opened two car repair shops after getting his degree in 1995. The men in his shop looked at him like a role model. Then he was sent to prison for drug dealing in 2002. He started the program as soon as he got out.

Prize: $5,000.

Third Place: American Pit Bull Foundation’s Operation Sidekick

Who: Sara Enos.

What: Trained service pit bulls for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.

In her words: “A hero for a hero.” Enos pointed out that 22 veterans a day are lost to suicide and 4,000 pit bulls are killed every day.

Prize: $7,500.

Second place: Catapult Concepts

Who: Brian Goins

What: The group is producing a documentary for teenagers about the side effects of pornography.

In his words: “No one is talking to our kids about the side effects of pornography. … A brain on porn scans exactly like a brain on heroin or cocaine.”

Prize: $12,500.

People’s Choice Grand Prize: Gen-One Charlotte

Who: Ian Joyce.

What: Provides mentoring and college counseling to high-performing, low-income, first-generation college-bound students.

In his words: “Your money insures that students … never become a cold statistic of poverty in our city again.”

Prize: $20,000.

The other finalists:

Arts For Life Charlotte (Rachel Zink)

Campus Pride (Shane Windmeyer)

Code for Charlotte (Jill Bjers)

Digi-Bridge (David Jessup Jr.)

The Key Resale Shop (Michelle Estrada Abels)

Redeeming Joy (Lanie George)

Other semifinalists:

1sTouch (Derrick Gates)

Croquet Records (James Willamor)

Fashion & Compassion (Michele Dudley)

Girls Pursuing Science (Jacquelyn Thomas)

I AM not the MEdia (Jimmeka Anderson)

LAWA (Violeta Moser)

NewGen Peacebuilders (Elizabeth Peacock)

The Male Leadership Academy of Charlotte (Todd Pipkin)

Transformational Educational Services (Happy Akuwa Gbodzo)

Photos: Corey Inscoe