Our 2024 WomanUp & Pitch finalists worked on their business plans and pitches to compete for the $10,000 first-place prize, $5,000 second-place prize and $2,500 third-place prize in four distinct competitions held in March 2024:

  • March 7: West Michigan WomanUp & Pitch Competition LIVE online
  • March 14: Mid-Michigan WomanUp & Pitch Competition LIVE online
  • March 21: Southeast Michigan WomanUp & Pitch Competition LIVE online
  • March 28: Statewide Food WomanUp & Pitch Competition LIVE in-person at Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit

Thanks to our sponsor Consumers Energy Foundation, we awarded $140,000 in cash prizes to local businesses to help grow their entrepreneurial dreams, improve their communities and invest in our state. Find out more about our WomanUp & Pitch competitions, including eligibility requirements.

Read about our amazing finalists and winners below.


WomanUp & Pitch Statewide Food Winners and Finalists – 2024


Renata Fernandez Dominguez, Madre Masa & Tortillas

First Place – Startup Business

Renata Fernandez Dominguez and Bek Ostosh, Madre Masa & Tortillas

About her business: We produce local, organic, nixtamalized, stone-ground corn masa and tortillas. Our products are freshly made using Michigan heirloom whole corn kernels.

About her passion: When I first came to the U.S. as an exchange student from Mexico 26 years ago, each pack of tortillas I bought at the store had that unpleasant acidic smell of preservatives, and tasted like everything else but corn. I finally decided that if I wanted a good tortilla at home in Michigan, I had to do it myself, and that is how Madre Masa and Tortillas started.


Christina Coden, Red Hots Chili

First Place – Established Business

Christina Coden, Red Hots Chili

About her business: Red Hots Chili started in 1921 as a family-owned brick and mortar Coney Island located in Highland Park. Knowing my parents would retire, I began figuring out how to package and sell the chili. In July 2021 the Coney Island closed, and Red Hots Chili made its debut in grocery stores.

About her passion: My passion comes from our family legacy. I am fourth generation of a chili recipe that has now been around 103 years. It is an incredible story that I hope to pass on to my boys one day.


Gabrielle Reed, Detroit Berry Company

Second Place – Startup Business

Gabrielle Reed, Detroit Berry Company

About her business: Detroit Berry Company creates handmade chocolate-covered treats specializing in chocolate-covered strawberries. We don’t just create treats, we cultivate memorable experiences that bring people together one berry at a time.

About her passion: I started making berries as a snack for myself. I was looking for a snack that wouldn’t blow my diet. As it turns out I was pretty good at making them, I played with flavors, themes, designs and grew to really love the industry.


Lisa Session, DA BOMB TACO

Second Place – Established Business

Lisa Session, DA BOMB TACO

About her business: DA BOMB TACO features explosively flavorful tacos and more! Our brand combines authentic Mexican flavors with expert craftsmanship and genuine hospitality to provide an experience that is guaranteed to blow you away!

About her passion: DA BOMB TACO is steeped in my passion for hospitality. My passion for hospitality is both innate and learned through witnessing my father’s selfless acts of service throughout my life. I am motivated by the opportunity to enhance Detroit neighborhoods with great food and genuine hospitality.


Anna June, Super Cookie

Third Place – Startup Business

Anna June, Super Cookie

About her business: Founded in Michigan in 2023, Super Cookie offers premium, healthy cookies targeting health-conscious shoppers, families and snack lovers. My unique product caters to three emerging trends: less sugar, plant-based, and allergen-free, filling a huge market gap.

About her passion: As health-conscious individual, I identified the demand for a guilt-free indulgence that satisfies cravings while supporting a healthy lifestyle. My vision led me to create a line of cookies that are both nutritious and incredibly tasty that I want to become available for any household in the state of Michigan and nationwide.


Shinia Malloy, Plenti Pastas Plus More

Third Place – Established Business

Shinia Malloy, Plenti Pastas Plus More

About her business: Plenti Pastas Plus More delivers delicious and innovative pasta dishes, crafted with high quality ingredients plus MORE! We offer a variety of food services including full-service catering, private chef experiences, food by the pan and individual meals.

About her passion: Plenti Pastas Plus More was created in memory of my Grandmother who instilled in me my love and passion for cooking. Many of the dishes we currently served include family recipes that have been passed down three generations. As a first generation business owner, my family keeps me motivated! I want to build generational wealth.


Dymond Hill, DK Sweet Shop

Finalist – Startup Business

Dymond Hill, DK Sweet Shop

About her business: We craft soul-satisfying sweets, putting a unique spin on your favorite desserts. We offer traditional favorites like cupcakes, cakes and banana pudding plus unique creations, like our best-selling dessert egg rolls.

About her passion: In January 2019 while in college at MSU, divine inspiration from God told me to bake cookies from scratch. That batch of cookies was more than just a delightful treat, it marked the beginning of the DK Sweet Shop journey. What keeps me motivated is the love I have for baking. Even though business at times can be overwhelming, the reactions I get from my customers keep me going.


Charisse Mills, Modern Maison Co.

Finalist – Startup Business

Charisse Mills, Modern Maison Co.

About her business: Modern Maison Co. provides artisan and aesthetic charcuterie boxes and grazing tables for corporate clients and event planners in the Metro Detroit region.

About her passion: I’m a problem solver, artist and foodie who is passionate about helping businesses balance meal delivery and dietary restrictions for a large group. It can be daunting for an office manager to navigate food and options while juggling other tasks and I’m happy to be the on-call foodie extraordinaire.


Maneeka Beasley, Cakes By the Jar

Finalist – Established Business

Maneeka Beasley, Cakes By the Jar

About her business: We offer single serving cake jars to save time, money and reduce waste. Our goal is to provide a convenient dessert solution for an on-a-go lifestyle. We offer four signature flavors Straw buh-buh berry Shortcake, Chocolate High Toffee-mel, Lemon Crunch Cake, and Vanilla Milkshake and a new flavor every quarter.

About her passion: Crafting delectable delights is my passion, and with each cake jar, I pour my heart and soul into creating moments of pure joy that our customers experience.


WomanUp & Pitch Southeast Michigan Winners and Finalists – 2024


Tiffany Dezort, Eastside Roasterz

First Place – Startup Business

Tiff and Riss Dezort, Eastside Roasterz

About their business: Eastside Roasterz is a coffee roaster and soon-to-be coffee shop based in Detroit! While we currently supply freshly-roasted specialty coffees and Detroit-inspired clothing to consumers and businesses throughout the U.S., we will be opening East English Village’s only coffee shop in Summer 2024.

About their passion: We LOVE coffee and we LOVE Detroit. We created this business not only for those two reasons, but also to create a legacy here for our kiddo. She is our biggest inspiration and motivation!


Shayla Johnson, Scarlet Crane

First Place – Established Business

Shayla N. Johnson, Scarlet Crane

About her business: Scarlet Crane is a dedicated micro-batch textile printing house in Detroit that specializes in sustainable hand-printed fabrics and creates home décor products and lifestyle accessories. We offer a variety of DIY print making workshops along with our handmade goods. We believe strongly in building community and sharing the love of screen-printing.

About her passion: From florals to geometrics, my passion is creating vibrant and colorful designs that are printed using eco-friendly inks and all natural fabrics that don’t put a strain on the environment.


Zienethe "Zina" Adewole, The Damage Zone

Second Place – Startup Business

Zienethe “Zina” Adewole, The Damage Zone

About her business: The Damage Zone will be Detroit’s first premier rage/smash room offering an alternative therapy for emotionally reactive adults and children. The Damage Zone allows the individual the opportunity to rage out destructively in a controlled, safe, and nonjudgmental environment.

About her passion: I’m passionate about improving the mental health and overall well being for both adults and children in Detroit residents, who deserve a place to live and thrive without the negative attachment of an urban city of crime.


Allison Jordan, FDN-P, Better Belly Therapies

Second Place – Established Business

Allison Jordan, FDN-P, Better Belly Therapies

About her business: Better Belly Therapies heals women from gut health issues like bloating, constipation, acid reflux and IBS. The Better Belly Method also helps whole body health including hormone, skin, sinuses, sleep, focus, memory, and mental health.

About her passion: I’m passionate about my business because of two years of extreme gut health problems that I went through after college that no doctor, diet change, medication, or supplement could fix. I vowed to myself that if I discovered what would actually heal me, I’d do something about sharing it with others.


Ayesha Qureshi, Cultured Cuties

Third Place – Startup Business

Ayesha Qureshi, Cultured Cuties

About her business: Cultured Cuties promotes diversity and inclusivity through our line of peelable magnetic dolls, enabling kids to explore different cultures while indulging in imaginative play. Each doll represents a different country with culturally-appropriate outfits and accessories, a recipe card to learn about the food from that country and a passport filled with fun facts.

About her passion: Leveraging my mixed heritage, I’ve infused our products with authenticity and a genuine desire to fill the gap in representation that I experienced growing up. We are not just selling toys; we are fostering a more inclusive and understanding world, one playtime at a time.


Satara Holliday, First Love Tours

Third Place – Established Business

Satara Holliday, First Love Tours

About her business: First Love Tours is a Detroit-based motor coach company specializing in state-to-state and local travel for family, community and corporate groups.

About her passion: I am the youngest, black, female owner of a motor coach company in the city of Detroit, and I have something to prove. I am a second generation company fulfilling the dreams of my father-in-law who started his company, J & L Tours, 37 years ago. This along with building generation wealth for my two kids is what keeps me pressing forward.


Christian Moon, Mom Wellness Cave

Finalist – Startup Business

Christian Moon, Mom Wellness Cave

About her business: The Mom Wellness Cave is a Wellness Center that supports moms in their motherhood journey through wellness products, self care and mental health services and interactive workshops.

About her passion: I am a mom who struggled with obtaining an identity outside of motherhood. I want to be that advocate and support system that I needed when I was a new mom. Being able to inspire moms and show them that they matter beyond being a mother keeps me motivated to continue to empower more moms.


Tamara Lincoln, Lincoln Stone Paper

Finalist – Startup Business

Tamara Lincoln, Lincoln Stone Paper

About her business: Lincoln Stone Paper is a sustainable stationery company with a focus on stone paper notebooks, greeting cards and sketchbooks. We strive to preserve the Earth as well as preserving people’s thoughts to help push people forward with mental health.

About her passion: In 2021, I had postpartum anxiety. My son was diagnosed with autism, and my house was in chaos. I decided to journal to pour into my own mental health, but my papers were being ruined by simple paper spills. I knew I needed something indestructible, so my thoughts would be preserved and protected.


Laura Luchtman, L Sharp Productions

Finalist – Established Business

Laura Luchtman, L Sharp Productions

About her business: L Sharp Productions is a full service entertainment company that offers karaoke, bar games and DJ services for all occasions.

About her passion: I have always believed that music speaks to us, where sometimes words fail. Music reaches us on another level and ties us all together as people. L Sharp is driven by our passion for entertaining, our love for music and the effect it has on people at our shows.


Roniesha Love, R Love Extensions

Finalist – Established Business

Roniesha Love, R Love Extensions

About her business: R Love Extensions offers high-quality 100% single-donor human hair wigs, bundles, extensions, and all-natural haircare products. Our mission is to fight alopecia and provide support to our customers throughout their hair journey.

About her passion: R Love Extensions was created after giving birth to my daughter and experiencing postpartum hair loss. We have over 800 satisfied customers that keep us motivated daily with their 5-star reviews and picture transformation videos. Every time we receive a positive review it makes us believe we are 1-step closer to achieving our mission.


WomanUp & Pitch Mid-Michigan Winners and Finalists – 2024


Laurisa Ankley, GradPhinDer

First Place – Startup Business

Laurisa Ankley, GradPhinDer

About her business: GradPhinder is an all-inclusive recruitment platform designed to effectively match biomedical Ph.D. programs with outstanding applicants. GradPhinder will take the guess work out of the application process while bringing equity and accessibility to STEM higher education.

About her passion: GradPhinDer isn’t just a business venture for me — it’s a mission. I understand the challenges that students face when pursuing advanced degrees, from navigating the admissions process to accessing resources and support networks. That’s why I’m committed to building a platform that levels the playing field, providing equitable opportunities for all aspiring researchers, regardless of their background.


Ugbaad Keynan, Take Flight Financial Coaching

First Place – Startup Business

Ugbaad Keynan, Take Flight Financial Coaching

About her business: Take Flight is an idea for a financial coaching app that helps users understand their relationship with money and develop better financial habits.

About her passion: Having worked as a financial coach, I got to see the profound impact better financial management can have on people’s lives. When people are given the support to understand their circumstances, they are empowered to change them. Change occurs through a person’s behaviors and Take Flight is a tool to help people do that.


Tiffany Blackman, Bread & Basket Marketplace

First Place – Established Business

Tiffany Blackman, Bread & Basket Marketplace

About her business: Bread & Basket Marketplace is a boutique-style public marketplace offering makers, creatives and curators affordable access to the local retail market, year-round, in a centrally-located retail space.

About her passion: During the height of the COVID pandemic, I resigned from my full-time job to stay home and oversee virtual schooling for my four children. I realized I had the unique opportunity to structure work on my own terms. I envision a world where entrepreneurs can build the life that they want doing the work that they love. So I set out to create it.


Kristina Lakey, The Goblin King Players

First Place – Established Business

Kristina Lakey, The Goblin King Players

About her business: The Goblin King Players weave cinematic magic onstage through shadowcasting, transforming beloved films into live, interactive experiences. We also delve into immersive events, offering unique adventures for all ages.

About her passion: Our commitment to fostering community through these interactive events underscores the power of art to unite us, reminding us that imagination truly can change the world. We offer a vibrant reminder that magic is for everyone, and together, we can step into worlds where anything is possible.


Kim Gamez, Sober(ish)

Second Place – Startup Business

Kim Gamez, Sober(ish)

About her business: Sober(ish) is the only marketplace for the sober-curious who want to discover fun alcohol alternatives, including buzz without the booze options. It features Federally-legal products available to consumers 21 years and older across the United States.

About her passion: In 2022, I wanted to replace my nightly cocktail with a wine-like buzz without the side effects of alcohol – especially the hangover, weight gain and anxiety. I also wanted to support my mother’s sobriety after she moved in with me and my family.


Cassie Briggs, Success in Science Career Coaching

Second Place – Established Business

Dr. Cassie Briggs, Success in Science Career Coaching

About her business: Success in Science Career Coaching uniquely blends science expertise with certified coach training to support students and early career professionals in science and medicine.

About her passion: I founded Success in Science Career Coaching to save students and emerging professionals in STEM from experiencing the unnecessary misdirection and heartache I did as a student and early career professional. I was confident in my career choice from a young age, but most students and professionals don’t have that clarity.


Suzanne R. Jones, Women M.O.V.E.

Finalist – Startup Business

Suzanne R. Jones, Women M.O.V.E.

About her business: Women M.O.V.E. (Mission Opportunity Vision Exceptional Behaviors) empowers women ready to design the next phase of their lives by discovering their mission and life purpose.

About her passion: I have been compelled over many years to make a difference. My first program was/is Girls on the M.O.V.E, and this new start-up Women M.O.V.E. is a direct extension of this concept but at an accelerated, elevated and in-depth level for women! I couldn’t be more inspired and passionate about this personal mission and purpose of mine!


Felicia Carter, Shorties Sweets Eats and Treats

Finalist – Established Business

Felicia Carter, Shorties Sweets Eats and Treats

About her business: Catering and events company with a custom food truck. Offering freshly prepared food desserts and beverages that have been crafted with love.

About her passion: Being able to create an unforgettable experience for my customers through food and desserts to remember is what keeps me thriving. Seeing how offering a customer centered service can help my customers and bring them satisfaction drew me to my business. Consistent growth as an entrepreneur who is able to reach her goals keeps me motivated.


Vanessa Frias, Willowbrook Farms

Finalist – Established Business

Vanessa Frias, Willowbrook Farms

About her business: We offer pasture raised meats that are fed non GMO and antibiotic-free. We also sell pasture-raised pet treats. In addition, we host agritourism and agri-educational experiences here on the farm.

About her passion: We started this business to get back to the basics and teach our children about life outside of the city. We wanted to begin eating quality and nutrient dense foods to feed our family. Our motivation has been our children and the will to change our lifestyles to become more wholesome.


WomanUp & Pitch West Michigan Winners and Finalists – 2024


Danielle Fogel, Spark & Logic

First Place – Startup Business

Danielle Fogel, Spark & Logic

About her business: Spark & Logic helps real estate brokerages provide educational, productive and engaging sales meetings for their agents. Our subscription-based service includes ready-to-use videos that walk step-by-step through a complete meeting, as well as resources for building customized meetings.

About her passion: I grew up in real estate. My dad owned his own brokerage, and I witnessed firsthand how much time and work it took to be successful. My goal with Spark & Logic is to give brokers like my dad the tools they need to be great leaders and have more control of their time.


Evvia Marshall, Creative Canine Pet Services

First Place – Established Business

Evvia Marshall, Creative Canine Pet Services

About her business: Creative Canine Pet Services offers doggy daycare, overnight boarding, grooming and dog walking services to the greater Grand Rapids area.

About her passion: I’m passionate about dogs being cared for by people who understand dog behavior. I’ve had my own dog rejected from pet care facilities for his breed specific needs, and I wanted to change that. There is also no minority representation in the West Michigan pet care industry. We are proud to be Black-owned and operated.


Katie Burdett, Farmette

Second Place – Startup Business

Katie Burdett, Farmette

About her business: Farmette is a small farm, marketplace, bakery and cafe located in New Buffalo.

About her passion: I am passionate about supporting 100% sustainable food culture and small, localized food systems. Farmette represents a new model for modern, sustainable agriculture.


Megan Ellison, Evolve Dance Studio

Second Place – Established Business

Megan Ellison, Evolve Dance Studio

About her business: Evolve Dance Studio specializes in teaching tap, ballet, jazz, hip hop, and contemporary dance to ages 3-18.

About her passion: As a child, I was fortunate to have a dance instructor who fostered a positive and fun environment for children. I have been committed to doing the same. My 5-year-old nephew was diagnosed with autism three years ago. Learning all I can do to help him has been a gift.


Bertina Polk, My Little Love Bugs Childcare

Third Place – Startup Business

Bertina Polk, My Little Love Bugs Childcare

About her business: I provide quality childcare with a strong emphasis on African American culture

About her passion: Black and Brown children are struggling with identity as young as preschool age. I was teased at a very young age and it made me feel as if I was not good enough. So I’m committed to making sure Black and Brown children love themselves and the skin they are in.


Meg Hamilton, Her Daily Bread

Third Place – Established Business

Meg Hamilton, Her Daily Bread

About her business: Her Daily Bread is a Grand Rapids-based micro-bakery and art studio that specializes in custom hand-crafted sugar cookies. We offer custom orders by the dozen, wholesale to retailers, individual cookies at markets/festivals, and online pre-sales.

About her passion: Her Daily Bread is run by two artists! We love to design fun and wild cookies and seek to inspire creativity in others through what we do.


Terrie Morrow, Ahh! Venture Cruise

Finalist – Startup Business

Terrie Morrow, Ahh! Venture Cruise

About her business: Located in the port of Holland, and cruising out to Lake Michigan, Ahh! Venture Cruise offers a unique top-notch boating experience, big lake adventure, refreshment and restoration of the mind, body and soul!

About her passion: We love being on the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Michigan and we love people! We wanted to share the beauty, bounty and refreshment of being on the water with others!


Alisa Cardenas, Howl at the Moon Sauna Co.

Finalist – Startup Business

Alisa Cardenas, Howl at the Moon Sauna Co.

About her business: Howl at the Moon Sauna Co. is the first-ever mobile sauna and cold plunge rental company in West Michigan. We cater to both private and public events, offering private overnight rentals, community pop-up sauna sessions and event rentals.

About her passion: To align my professional endeavors with a practice that fosters well-being is truly fulfilling. It goes beyond a simple business venture; it’s a mission to contribute positively to people’s lives.


Elizabeth Huff, Huff and Bloom Floral Co.

Finalist – Established Business

Elizabeth Huff, Huff and Bloom Floral Co.

About her business: Huff and Bloom Floral Co. is a boutique floral design company. We offer one-of-a-kind garden-style bouquets and bespoke wedding floral design services in Grand Rapids.

About her passion: I still get a thrill each time a couple walks into their ceremony or reception space and their vision has come to life through our floral designs. Being a part of someone’s special day and designing the flowers that will tell their love story is a dream come true.


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