Accelerate 2024 winners

Grand Prize: $5,000 
Laura Balliett: Cool School Comics

Finalists: $2,000 each
Johnathon Jamison & Heavenly Aguilar: Reel People, Real Legacies!
Ariana Smith: Mental Health Matters: Youth Summit
Nicholas “Moses” Ngong & Luciana Salles: Culture.CLE
Paula Coggins: Sew City Quilts

Technovation winner: $3,500 
Sara Kidner: Micro Scholarship Mentor Match

How Accelerate works

ACCELERATE

Category Competition
Panels of community leaders judge the Category Competition pitches and select one pitch from each category to advance to the finals. Pitch order is alphabetical by last name for each category.

Finalist Competition
The six finalists pitch their ideas to the audience members, who then vote to determine the $5,000 winner. The five runners-up each receive $2,000.

In addition to the cash prizes, all six finalists will receive a spot in the 2024 NEO SEA Change Cohort and a one-year ECDI membership. The four runner-up finalists will receive a voucher for a Flawless Planning Live Workshop, and one presenter will receive an Ingenuity Cleveland Impact Award during the Finalist announcement.

TECHNOVATION

A judge panel of community leaders select the winner who is announced during the final program. The Technovation winner
receives $3,500.

TEEN ACCELERATE

A judge panel of community leaders select the winner ($1,000) and runner-up ($500), who are recognized during the final program.


The 2024 presenters

Click on each of the tabs below to check out the pitches in each category.

  • Teen Accelerate (4:15pm - Room 22)

    Teen Accelerate is hosted by Young Entrepreneur Institute and sponsored by Burton D. Morgan Foundation.


    Teen Accelerate schedule

      • 4:15 p.m. Pitches 1-6
      • 5:15 p.m. Break
      • 5:25 p.m. Pitches 7-10
      • 6:15 p.m. Awards presentation
    Judges
    • Monica Grays, Founder, 2nd Semester Consignment Shop
    • Annie Johnson, Owner/Founder, Anne Cate
    • Bob Sopko, Director, CWRU LaunchNet

    Teen Accelerate presenters 

    COOK & CREATE!
    Vee Johnson and Lachelle Cleary
    Cleveland School of Architecture and Design, CMSD

    PAUSE & REFLECT WELLNESS COACHING
    Selah Gray
    Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy

    PROJECT PET
    Christopher Alvarez, Zoe Dilorenzo, Sarah Hall, Santiago Salvador
    GlenOak High School, Plain Local Schools

    GROWING HOPE
    Lilly Moran, Gabby Ransom
    Hathaway Brown School

    MISSION MONARCH
    Carter Black, Grady Miller, Jack Shaffer, Tess Bucher
    North Canton Hoover High School

    FOOD FOR FUEL
    Concetta Yormick
    Laurel School

    FOR THE FLOW
    Natalia Navarro
    Laurel School

    SCIOLOGY
    Ayesha Faruki
    Mentor High School

    EMPOWER WITH AI
    Eashan Kosaraju
    Solon High School

    CLOTHING 4 QUEERS
    Aidan Krishnaney
    University School

    See the full Teen Accelerate pitch descriptions >

  • Social Change (4:30pm - Room 24)

    Sponsored by Centric Consulting
    Increasing equity, access, and opportunities.

    Judges
    • Seven Harris (ALI 2022, LC2 2020, LC 2019), Executive Director, LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland
    • Joe Smucny (LC 2016, CBB 2002), VP & Managing Partner, Centric Consulting, LLC
    • Teleangé Thomas (LC 2024), Chief Operating & Relationship Officer, JumpStart Inc.
    • Tim Tramble (LC 2010), President & CEO, Saint Luke’s Foundation of Cleveland
    • Marty Uhle (LC 2022), President & CEO, Community West Foundation

    Cleveland Youth Political Action Committee

    Jerry Billups

    Cleveland Youth Political Action Committee helps young people learn about politics through a hands-on approach. The Committee’s goal is to increase political awareness by developing a real-life connection to local and state level politicians. To do this, young people will be introduced to candidates and will campaign for current issues that the Committee decides fit within the mission. The participants will also learn how to influence their circles of families and peers. This will have a direct impact on voter turnout, but more importantly, will increase the number of young people who run for political office knowing that this is a viable option.

    My Why
    “I have a family consisting of my wife our two sons 17, 14, and two daughters 13, 11. I’ve worked my entire adult life to improve the lives of others. I chose to pitch to Accelerate because my friends and family believe in me and my dream.”


    Woodhill Laundry Cooperative

    Morgan A. Ford & Morgan Bulger

    Woodhill Laundry Cooperative is a group of neighbors and people with ties to the Woodhill Homes, Buckeye, and Woodland communities, working to start a cooperatively owned laundromat in the neighborhood. The goal of the co-op is to provide a full-service laundromat for the neighborhood, to create a community space, and to create opportunities for residents in the Buckeye-Woodland community to build wealth.

    IG: woodhillcoop  |  ioby: Woodhill Communit Co-op

    Our Why
    “The Woodhill Coop is a community led initiative to start a cooperatively owned laundromat, cafe, and community space. We are founding members of the Woodhill Coop since 2019. We are both passionate advocates for the Woodhill community. As the co-chairs of the business committee we see Accelerate 2024 Pitch Competition as a step towards additional fundraising.”


    Interest 2 Income (i2i)

    Ossie Mae Neal

    Interest 2 Income (i2i) will focus on music industry workforce development for youth and young adults throughout Greater Cleveland. The i2i youth program will expose students ages 13-17 to different careers in the music industry and help guide them into their “interests” through education and skills development through collaborative partnership with arts organizations. The goal of the youth program is to spark interest in creative and business careers in music and expose Cleveland’s youth to the plethora of career opportunities in the industry outside of being the stage talent. Future partnership with the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center (JJDC) will help to inspire incarcerated youth onto a new path through exposure to a diverse array of careers in the music and entertainment industries. The i2i young adult initiative is an arts mastery program for ages 18-26 and is focused on developing those interests and skills cultivated in our youth program into viable and sustainable career income. An annual six-month cohort, led by Krayzie Bone and his hand-picked staff of Cleveland industry professionals, will provide expert classroom instruction and hands-on work to provide a launchpad into the industry for Cleveland’s top talent. These sessions will concentrate on various facets of the recording industry such as music recording, songwriting, video production, marketing, and promotions, as well as copyrights, publishing, and contracts. Upon completion of the i2i program, participants will receive a certificate of completion and access to continued career support services as a program alumnus.

    FB: Spread the Love OH  |  IG: spreadtheloveOH  |

    My Why
    “I am a Cleveland native and enthusiast and product of CMSD and graduate of Cleveland Heights High School. I chose to pitch to Accelerate because we believe that our Interest 2 Income (i2i) program has the ability to generate real social change in Cleveland and beyond. Additionally, the Accelerate pitch competition is an invaluable platform to build awareness and support of our initiative with community and corporate leaders.”


    Culture.CLE

    Nicholas “Moses” Ngong & Luciana Salles

    Culture.CLE is a dinner series hosted by Global Shapers Cleveland—a local “hub” of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community—in partnership with immigrant-owned/operated restaurants in the Cleveland area. Individuals buy tickets for a private meal, cooking demonstration, and Q&A with chefs/owners to learn about their stories and the history behind their food. These restaurants typically rely on inconsistently updated social media (mostly Facebook) to spread the word about their services. Few people in the immigrant community use Facebook and many pages have few posts with outdated menus and hours, so leaning on it as a main marketing vehicle leads to low engagement and even lower patronage. Culture.CLE uses the trust Global Shapers Cleveland has earned from more than ten years serving Cleveland to invite customers into immigrant-owned/operated restaurants for a curated dining experience. In the process, Culture.CLE introduces Clevelanders to restaurants they otherwise would not have tried or heard of, with the goal of building them a new client base. Culture.CLE diners always express gratitude in being able to meet other Clevelanders, hearing the stories of staff from other countries that too often go untold, and supporting a local business with their patronage that night and word-of-mouth marketing following their experiences!

    FB: Global Shapers Community – Cleveland  |  X:  GlobalShaperCle  |  IG: globalshaperscle  |  LI: Global Shapers – Cleveland Hub  |  ioby: Culture.CLE

    Our Why
    Moses (Cameroonian) and Luciana (Brazilian), co-lead the hub of Shapers in Cleveland. As a community, Shapers always seek to make local impact through a global lens; we believe Culture.CLE does that beautifully! In addition, we both believe trying new foods is a way to expand one’s cultural horizons and find it to be a great way to bring Clevelanders together. We thank our hub’s alumna, Samantha (Peddicord) Ryder, who started this effort years ago. Every hub leader has been able to uphold Culture.CLE since and it’s time to amplify this work. Accelerate 2024 is the ideal venue to spread the word about the incredible restaurants run by immigrants around the city and to create a more integrated Cleveland by accelerating Culture.CLE’s efforts.


    C.H.E.S.S. with Big Tray

    Trayvon Porter

    C.H.E.S.S. (Challenge, Healthy relationships, Empowerment, Self-Love, and Strategic) with Big Tray is a program that teaches participants the game of chess. Why chess? Chess is a game for all ages that is just like life. Strategy, thinking ahead, and challenging oneself are all important components of the game. The relationships created playing the game, as well as the lessons learned, such as building self-confidence, can impact each person in their personal growth journey. C.H.E.S.S. with Big Tray would organize chess programs at several libraries in Cleveland. Three locations are already secured to start programming in 2024, as well as two schools where the program currently operates. This program is already partnered with the 1,000 Ties organization and has been conducting lessons with the young men involved, with great results over the past three years. The program focuses on not just playing the game, but also offers the social and emotional etiquette needed during lessons which teaches participants how to engage and network. As the program grows, more coaches can be brought on to ultimately bring the program to libraries and middle schools across the city.  C.H.E.S.S. with Tray would also hold tournaments that would offer scholarships and cash prizes for winners.

    IG: 1000.ties

    My Why
    “I have been to multiple Accelerate pitch competitions over the years and I’ve always loved all of the support and networking that I see. I’m very excited to get started on my entrepreneurial journey and I can’t think of a better place to kick it off than being a part of the Accelerate pitch competition.”

  • Thriving Neighborhoods (4:30pm - Room 23)

    Sponsored by Growth Opps
    Invigorating people and places through environmental and community improvement.

    Judges
    • Debbie Berry (LC2 2014, LC 2008, CLC Board), Deputy Chief of Integrated Developments, Cuyahoga County
    • Marcus Glanton, Chief Operating Officer, Growth Opportunity Partners
    • Allison Lukacsy-Love (ALI 2024, CBB 2017), Managing Director of Major Projects (Waterfronts and Downtown), Greater Cleveland Partnership
    • Girish Rao, Leader Digital Studio, The Lubrizol Corporation
    • Matt Zone (LC 2007), SVP & Director of Thriving Communities, Western Reserve Land Conservancy

     

    Step into Housing

    Renee Brickman

    Step into Housing will create a safe, affordable tiny house community for chronically homeless men and women. Ten efficiency suite-style houses, 450 square feet each, will be built on Cleveland’s west side, and serve a previously unmet need. The project will provide permanent housing for homeless individuals, where 30% of their income will pay the rent. The monthly rent for each resident will be paid by project-based vouchers through Cuyahoga County Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) and EDEN. The vouchers will cover the cost of a fair market rental price while allowing the residents to live in a higher quality home. Preliminary costs for the housing lots purchased through the Cleveland Land Bank are a modest $200 per lot. Five lots have been reserved for the houses, with two houses being allocated to each lot. The construction for each efficiency suite-style house will be about $15,000-$20,000. Each house will include running water, heat, and electricity. Regency Construction Services Inc. will provide hard and soft cost estimates along with cash flow projections pro bono once the architectural drawings are completed. The goal of this project is to give the residents a sense of purpose and dignity while also supporting them with rental cost-covering vouchers.

    My Why
    “I am an advocate for the homeless and I truly believe that housing is a human right. I choose to pitch to Accelerate so I can create affordable housing for the homeless.”


    SEW City Quilts

    Paula Coggins

    The SEW City Quilts initiative will leverage public art for community improvement by enhancing lives and spaces through arts and culture. Program participants will create fiber art in the form of quilts to hang inside public buildings in the Lee-Harvard (Ward 1) community on the southeast side of Cleveland, Ohio. This initiative will have profound impacts by building culturally resonant and long-lasting platforms that foster artistic expression, community-building, and spatial justice in public spaces. Creating fiber art by sewing quilts will mobilize, empower, represent, and engage the community while paying homage to an underserved, underheard neighborhood. The entire quilt-making process will allow residents to practice decision-making through creative expression, encouraging them to critically engage with and reimagine power structures represented by public buildings.

    My Why
    “The Accelerate pitch competition is more than an opportunity to win funding; it is a valuable platform to gain critical experience presenting our ideas, receive expert feedback, and engage with potential stakeholders. It is an opportunity to tell our story and solution to audiences that hopefully can understand and value the impact we want to make in the community. I was raised in the Lee-Harvard community and know that I must do something creative to encourage a renewed growth and vibrancy for the neighborhood.”

    LI: Paula Coggins


     

    100Lot Project

    Jacqueline Jacobs

    The 100Lot Project is a resident-fueled initiative to celebrate and advance the historic Mount Pleasant community of Cleveland, Ohio. More than 100 years ago, the Black Americans in Mount Pleasant began with 100 lots deeded to craftsmen in lieu of wages. Today, the 100Lot Project aims to use that history as the foundation to revitalize and rebuild the neighborhood through reimagined ideas of community support, workforce development, and housing. In the past, we’ve seen communities’ residents being displaced by an increase in housing prices as companies come to revitalize their neighborhoods for new tenants. Jacqueline grew up in the Mount Pleasant area and learned first-hand what a community is. The power individuals have as a group can nurture the advancement of our neighborhoods rather than being pushed out. Along with housing support, the 100Lot Project seeks to resolve this problem by expanding opportunities for remote and local jobs that aren’t transport-dependent. Mount Pleasant can have stabilized earning power within the community and open communication with its current residents for support. Other communities facing the same problems can follow suit and thrive. In order to fuel this endeavor, the 100Lot Project aims to partner with state and local government, foundations, churches, and corporations interested in investing in a community’s efforts to rebuild itself.

    My Why
    Why not? As a former resident of the Mount Pleasant area, this is my passion project. There are generations of stories within this neighborhood and I’m not content with their erasure from the history books. I am a doer and a dreamer. I created the 100Lot Project a few years ago. At that time, numerous roadblocks prevented its successful implementation. In the past two years, most of these major roadblocks have vanished. The time to strike is now and I want to start with pitching at Accelerate. Stories. Vision. Action.

    WEB: www.100lotproject.org


    Skywalk

    Lennie Stover

    The Skywalk will be a 4,200-foot-long elevated greenway built over RTA’s Cuyahoga Viaduct connecting 58,000 racially and economically diverse people within eight neighborhoods to one another and to the 120,000 jobs in downtown Cleveland. This trail will connect to Phases I & II of the Greenway, which were completed for $6 million in May of 2021. At its completion, the Skywalk will create a three-mile high- tech greenway equipped with Wi-Fi, charging stations, a viewing deck, and a 450-foot causeway with social gathering spots that lead up to Huron Road and Bedrock’s new Riverfront Development site where thousands of new jobs await. The cantilevered trail will be lined by changing color lights, sculpted curving seats, soaring pillars, public art, and the bridge’s event space 95 feet above the Cuyahoga River. A three-minute video about the project and the underserved neighborhoods it connects has already been produced in this mission to complete the Skywalk trail. Thanks to these efforts, RTA is allowing a $100,000 cost and feasibility study to be completed, and the intention is to sell naming rights to the Skywalk to supplement traditional trail funding. The Skywalk will be a truly transformational project!

    FB: Red Line Greenway  |  IG: lenniestover

    My Why
    “I think I’ve attended every previous Accelerate and always enjoy watching the competition and hearing fresh new ideas that can improve our community. I finally have an idea to pitch that draws on all my varied life experiences; from growing up on a farm to being a Boy Scout who attended the World Jamboree in Japan to managing money and now running a construction company. My life experiences and faith have led me to this time and place.”


    ReLeafed Leaf Relief

    Tara Will

    ReLeafed is leaf removal made easy. Users simply stake the net in the ground in the beginning of the fall, watch the leaves fall, and at the end of the season, with one pull of the rope, the net then becomes a bag. All the troubles of picking up leaves are removed, saving time, energy, and money. Cleveland neighborhoods and parks will benefit from this because of the cost and time efficiency. Homeowners in local suburbs will be able to save their lawns without spending hundreds of dollars.

    My Why
    “When I was a kid, I would always get sent outside to rake the leaves in my backyard and it was a hassle. Leaf removal services or leaf blowers was never an option so my time was the sacrifice. Now, ReLeafed is able to catch the leaves in my backyard and transform to a bag so my time is saved.”

  • Technovation (4:30pm - Room 21)

    Sponsored by Cleveland Foundation
    Technovation is a separate competition at Accelerate for innovative, community-driven tech ideas for social good in Cuyahoga County.

    Judges
    • Diane Gatto, Chief Operating Officer, Positive Education Program
    • Jamie McGuire, Business Systems Analyst, Cleveland Foundation
    • Raghav Rao, Community Innovation and Technology Manager, Cleveland Public Library
    • Will Skora, Co-Founder, Open Cleveland and Website Administrator, Cleveland Public Library
    • Catherine Tkachyk (LC 2019), Founder & CEO, CT Strategies LLC

    InCircle

    Timothy Hinton

    InCircle is a self-development app that would accelerate building meaningful, healthy relationships by giving people access to interpersonal education, prompts, and calendar sync options to ease scheduling conversations with their close friends and family. The Interpersonal Education section would include brief 60-90 second attention-grabbing demonstrations and concepts to excel at building meaningful connections, covering topics such as how to have deeper conversations, create safe spaces, or navigate difficult discussions. Scheduling conversations with friends and family on the app helps users share their intention to strengthen their connections with each other. On the app, users could schedule routine chats, and the app will automatically generate conversation prompts for them based on their shared interest and topics they selected on the app to keep the conversation always fresh. Following each conversation with friends and family, users can reflect. InCircle provides users with data insights to support their understanding of which connections have provided them with the most value, so they know how often to talk to each person and how to bring out the best in them in every conversation!

    My Why
    “I am a human bond liaison with my biggest goal being to provide tools to help 100 million people learn skills that help them hear, love, and connect with others more powerfully. With my time, I am typically motivational speaking at schools or spending time with my family and friends having quality conversations. I hope with my presentation I can bring awareness to the loneliness epidemic and how we can move towards a more connected and joy-filled world together.”

    * Timothy is also pitching in the Health & Well-being category *


    Micro Scholarship Mentor Match

    Sara Kidner

    Each year, first generation college students leave school at the end of the first semester or first year because they cannot enroll in classes due to a balance owed, which is often less than $2,000. First generation students need a way to quickly navigate and rebound from this situation. Current avenues, such as Go Fund Me don’t work because they are asking students to tap into a network they don’t have. Micro Scholarship Mentor Match connects them to a mentor or an alum of their school willing to help captain micro scholarships to fill the gap. These mentors will use the platform and their already established network to donate as little as $5 until the need is met.

    Last winter, this model was piloted for a former student from The University of Akron who was distraught that $1,500 would prevent him from completing the second semester. By engaging the Akron Zips friends and family network, the gap was closed in less than eight hours, one micro scholarship at a time. Not only did he return to classes, but he also now has a whole team in his corner. Unsolicited, they sent care packages, encouraging messages and advice. Micro scholarships, mentorship, and a village of supporters will allow first generation students the support they need to thrive.

    My Why
    “I am a Cleveland high school principal inspiring the next generation of Cleveland Leaders. As a collaborative community, I know we can make this city a vibrant supportive place to live.”

    * Sara is also pitching in the Education category *


    AI vs. Artists: Creating Together

    Alex Michaels

    As AI increases in popularity and influence over every industry, artists are feeling the presence of AI more than ever. The recent writers’ and actors’ union strikes focused on film studios increasingly utilizing AI over their human counterparts. An agreement was reached that ended both strikes in which the film studios agreed to create movies with the assistance of AI but would not allow AI to replace human creativity. Some non-union production companies, whose operations were not affected by the settlements, will most likely continue to use AI rather than employ artists. This initiative will propose a “truce” and a playbook of tools with which artists can create their art with the use of AI while still in control of their own digital character.

    ioby: AI versus Artists  |  FB: Prelude2Cinema  |  X:  Prelude2Cinema  |  IG: Prelude2Cinema  |  LI: Alex Michaels  |  YT: Prelude2Cinema Inc.

    My Why
    “I’m an Emmy winning writer, an independent filmmaker and I pitched at the very first Accelerate. I love that Accelerate and CLC is so supportive of all the presenters.”


    Women’s Safety

    Bharat Akhil Palisetti

    Women’s Safety is a revolutionary women’s’ safety application designed to empower and protect women in every aspect of their lives. In a world where personal safety is a paramount concern, the app combines cutting-edge technology with user-friendly features to create a comprehensive solution. The application offers real-time location tracking, allowing users to share their whereabouts with trusted contacts. In emergency situations, a simple shake of the phone activates an SOS signal, immediately alerting pre-selected contacts and connecting the user to emergency services. Additionally, the app’s unique “Virtual cop” feature employs artificial intelligence to analyze and identify potentially unsafe situations based on location, time, and user behavior. It provides proactive safety recommendations and can even automatically trigger an alert if it detects a potential threat.

    My Why
    “I am residing in Downtown Cleveland and was a Masters student at CSU majoring in Information Systems.”

    LI: Bharat Akhil Palisetti


    Family Fun Pass

    Candace Swaisgood

    The family fun pass is a digital service that discounts family-friendly attractions in the greater Cleveland area. When an individual purchases the pass, they receive reduced ticket pricing for local attractions such as museums, sporting events and outdoor recreation locations. The greater Cleveland area offers a wide variety of cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities for families to enjoy together. However, the costs of taking advantage of all these opportunities can be restrictive. By reducing these costs with a digital family pass, could increase appreciation and attendance at these venues and enrich the lives of digital pass holders that otherwise would not be able to afford the experience.

    In addition to increasing reach and revenue for the participating vendors and expanding access to the individuals that purchase the pass, it can also exist as a fundraising tool for nonprofits. Organizations such as school parent/teacher organizations, early childhood parent/teacher organizations, teams, etc. can fundraise by selling the passes and receiving 10% of the proceeds. The Family Fun Pass will provide tangible benefits – increased revenue and fundraising – as well as intangible benefits, such as exposure to new perspectives and timeless memories.

    My Why
    “Two of my great passions in life are entrepreneurship and being a mother, so I love ideas that make both of those things easier and more enjoyable. The greater Cleveland arts and culture scene is a true asset for families, and I believe in removing barriers to accessing them for as many children and parents as possible.”

    * Candace is also pitching in the Arts & Culture category *

  • Arts & Culture (5:45pm - Room 21)

    Sponsored by Oswald Companies & Westfield
    Improving lives and spaces through arts and culture.

    Judges
    • Kip Bollin (LC 2020, CLC Board), Partner in Charge, Cleveland, Thompson Hine LLP
    • Jennifer Coleman (LC 2022), Program Director, George Gund Foundation
    • Michael Obertacz (LC 2020, CLI 2017), Executive Director, Near West Theatre
    • Jill Paulsen (LC 2017), Executive Director, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture
    • Deena Rini (CBB 2019), Senior VP and Managing Director of the Retirement Plan Division, Oswald Companies

    Restauratour

    Tricia L. Chaves

    Restauratour, a complementary bi-annual digital tourism guide will bring timely, relevant, and authentic recommendations from a diverse panel of local restaurant owners who are both patrons and producers of the best cuisine in the city. Along with the digital guide, video content will give readers behind-the-scenes experiences with top Cleveland chefs, while family-friendly pop-up events like tastings and tours will expand awareness to a new generation of culinarians. With the belief that eating well should be a pleasure for all, complementary content on social media will include easy-to-follow chef tutorials using budget-friendly ingredients and will offer cooking demonstrations. The goal of Restauratour is to increase culinary arts accessibility to a wider audience while boosting the ventures of vetted businesses.

    My Why
    “I am a mother and freelance writer with a passion for food and storytelling. I was inspired to create Restauratour to share the best of local food with the widest possible audience through behind the scenes tours with top Cleveland chefs, cooking demonstrations, and a bi-annual tourism guide featuring a dozen dining destinations handpicked from the chefs’ favorites.”


    Real People, Reel Legacies!

    Johnathon Jamison & Heavenly Aguilar

    Reel People, Real Legacies! will gather unique stories, life-changing events, milestone moments, and the history of community members. It will be a library of unheard stories from community members, each of whom possesses an intriguing historical background. The goal is to provide these families with a copy of their recording so they can cherish and preserve their legacy.

    My Why
    “I (Johnathon) am a self-driven, family-oriented, entrepreneur that creates collaboration with other artists. I chose to pitch to Accelerate for startup funds for my project, to gain exposure, and to gain confidence in public speaking.”


    Renaissance Box

    Tanya Kaiser

    Innovation flourishes at the intersection of diverse disciplines. The Renaissance Box initiative is dedicated to dismantling barriers by cultivating collaborative creation between professionals from the sciences and visual arts while they lead a team of students through an immersive art-science residency. Renaissance Box aims to unify artistic expression and scientific advancement by transcending conventional limits and fostering creativity through the convergence of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). The team of seasoned professionals will mentor high school students, guiding them on an interdisciplinary journey, helping them gain invaluable hands-on experience, and emphasizing the significance of integrating STEAM disciplines.

    This residency will catalyze the spirit of innovation by melding the arts and sciences, mentoring students to kindle fresh approaches to creative problem solving and scientific inquiry, and harnessing Cleveland’s abundant resources.

    My Why
    “I am a nonprofit leader, entrepreneur, artist, and parent. I am dedicated to the arts transcending my studio walls. Committed to my community, I actively nurture inclusive environments while tirelessly working to create expanded opportunities for artists.”

    ioby: Renaissance Box Residency Program


    I See You

    Elizabeth Kravanya

    I See You will spread positive change person-to-person through fun fashion with positive art and words. Brightly colored T-shirts that showcase virtues such as Be a Peacemaker, Be Forgiving, Be Helpful, Be Humble, Be Loving and feature a character that represents ways to “B” – with all characters designed by teenagers.

    The shirts are sold in twos, one for the buyer and one that will be sent to a person identified by the buyer in which they recognize the positive trait. The “gift” shirts will be delivered with a note that says: “I saw this trait (virtue) in you. I appreciate you being (fill in the virtue).” In this way, people can see and thank each other for being a changemaker. The images can be expanded on to mugs, bumper stickers, and other items.

    My Why
    “I believe we can make the world a better place by recognizing virtue in others. I believe small acts of kindness can change hearts and minds. I believe that seeing the positive in others has a ripple effect. We are all changemakers, when you see the good in others, the good in you shines through.”


    Family Fun Pass

    Candace Swaisgood

    The family fun pass is a digital service that discounts family-friendly attractions in the greater Cleveland area. When an individual purchases the pass, they receive reduced ticket pricing for local attractions such as museums, sporting events and outdoor recreation locations. The greater Cleveland area offers a wide variety of cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities for families to enjoy together. However, the costs of taking advantage of all these opportunities can be restrictive. Reducing these costs with a digital family pass, could increase appreciation and attendance at these venues and enrich the lives of digital pass holders that otherwise would not be able to afford the experience.

    In addition to increasing reach and revenue for the participating vendors and expanding access to the individuals that purchase the pass, it can also exist as a fundraising tool for nonprofits. Organizations such as school parent/teacher organizations, early childhood parent/teacher organizations, teams, etc. can fundraise by selling the passes and receiving 10% of the proceeds. The Family Fun Pass will provide tangible benefits – increased revenue and fundraising – as well as intangible benefits, such as exposure to new perspectives and timeless memories.

    My Why
    “Two of my great passions in life are entrepreneurship and being a mother, so I love ideas that make both of those things easier and more enjoyable. The greater Cleveland arts and culture scene is a true asset for families, and I believe in removing barriers to accessing them for as many children and parents as possible.”

    * Candace is also pitching in the Technovation competition *

  • Education (5:45pm - Room 23)

    Sponsored by Nordson
    Advancing access, readiness, and success for learners of all ages.

    Judges
    • Margaret Bernstein (LC2 2020 & 2017, LC 2016, CLI 2014), Director of Advocacy & Community Initiatives, WKYC Channel 3
    • Mary Ann Corrigan-Davis (ALI 2024, LC 2008), President (retired), St. Joseph Academy
    • Tom Gill (LC 2021, CEF 2010, CLI 2009), President, Urban Community School
    • Sonya Pryor-Jones (CEF 2007), Chief of Youth & Family Success, City of Cleveland
    • Cecilia Render, Executive Director, Nordson Corporation Foundation

    Cool School Comics

    Laura Balliett

    Cool School Comics makes science accessible to a more diverse audience by melding captivating science cartoons with hands-on learning. Crafted to align with grades 3-9 NGSS Standards, these comics break down tricky concepts into manageable chunks and rope readers in with vivid illustrations and easy-to-grasp diagrams. Cool School Comics provides complete, ready-to-go lesson plans that are easy for teachers to implement. Today’s learners are growing up in a world of information overload. They are constantly inundated with screens and quick to dismiss anything they consider boring. Many students lack fundamental reading skills and immediately shut down when presented with tricky reading passages. As a result, they are falling behind and are reluctant to engage in learning. Comics have the power to grab the attention of today’s learners and rebuild their confidence in reading. They are naturally differentiated, with the ability to accommodate a wide range of learning abilities and styles. This concept makes the information relatable and fun, thus improving retention and engagement. Comics work.

    FB: Cool School Comics |  IG: coolschoolcomics  |  YT: Cool School Comic Clips

    My Why
    “I am a former middle school science teacher turned “mompreneur.” I have a dream of teaching science using my art, and these comics are just the tip of the iceberg. I’m just getting started.”


    Gentlemen’s Canvas

    Alfrie Hudson & Michael Hudson

    Gentlemen’s Canvas presents an immersive and transformative summer program designed exclusively for young men seeking personal growth, leadership development, and a memorable summer experience. The program, “Canvas of Character,” aims to equip participants with valuable life skills while fostering camaraderie and self-discovery. Gentlemen’s Canvas will embody character development workshops, leadership training, artistic expression sessions, community engagement projects, and mentorship programs. The program will cap off with a closing ceremony which includes a showcase of the participants’ achievements, personal growth, and the skills they acquired during the summer program. Families, mentors, and community members are invited to celebrate the journey of these young men as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. The “Canvas of Character” summer program is designed to be an enriching, holistic experience that leaves a lasting impact on the lives of participants, equipping them with the tools they need to navigate adolescence and beyond with confidence and purpose.

    ioby: Gentlemen’s Canvas

    My Why
    “I (Alfrie Hudson) am a wife and mom. Gentlemen’s Canvas stems from my passion as a mom, a deep love and commitment to nurturing my sons and other young men, and ensuring they have the tools and support needed to navigate the complexities of adolescence and emerge as confident, compassionate, and responsible individuals. ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ – Jeremiah 29:11″


    5PillarsINC

    Robert Hunter

    5PillarsINC is an SEL-Academic program designed to give youth an overall sense of wellness in and out of the classroom. The program identifies with the scholar’s interest and aligns it with academic discipline which helps scholars become leaders toward their future. 5PillarsINC original methods are aligned with State and National standards in both academics and social-emotional wellness.

    IG: raisekings  |  YT: 5PillarsINC

    My Why
    “To spread awareness of 5PillarsINC, a blended social and emotional program that uses neurological based information to help students succeed in and out of the classroom.”


    Micro Scholarship Mentor Match

    Sara Kidner

    Each year, first generation college students leave school at the end of the first semester or first year because they cannot enroll in classes due to a balance owed, which is often less than $2,000. First generation students need a way to quickly navigate and rebound from this situation. Current avenues, such as Go Fund Me don’t work because they are asking students to tap into a network they don’t have. Micro Scholarship Mentor Match connects them to a mentor or an alum of their school willing to help captain micro scholarships to fill the gap. These mentors will use the platform and their already established network to donate as little as $5 until the need is met.

    Last winter, this model was piloted for a former student from The University of Akron who was distraught that $1,500 would prevent him from completing the second semester. By engaging the Akron Zips friends and family network, the gap was closed in less than eight hours, one micro scholarship at a time. Not only did he return to classes, but he also now has a whole team in his corner. Unsolicited, they sent care packages, encouraging messages and advice. Micro scholarships, mentorship, and a village of supporters will allow first generation students the support they need to thrive.

    My Why
    “I  am a Cleveland high school principal inspiring the next generation of Cleveland Leaders. As a collaborative community, I know we can make this city a vibrant supportive place to live.”

    * Sara is also pitching in the Technovation competition *


    City Bridges

    Michelle Person

    The pandemic has highlighted the cracks in the traditional educational system. According to NPR, the proportion of Black homeschoolers has increased fivefold, from 3.3% to 16.1%. Classrooms are overcrowded, school shootings are at an all-time high, and the rewriting of American history to a version that minimizes the atrocities committed against African Americans and diminishes their contributions and impact on society. Parents are looking for alternatives and don’t know the legal requirements, how to build community, find curriculum, balance homeschooling and the demands of a full-time career, or how to manage learning plans for multiple children – and they don’t know where to look to find these answers. These families need hands-on relationship-based guidance.

    City Bridges will create an ecosystem that caters to the specific needs of urban homeschooling for families of color. City Bridges is working to create a legal clinic where families can get assistance navigating the legalities of homeschooling and access state dollars for students with identified diverse learning needs. Regularly scheduled in-person meet-ups will allow families to come together and build community, share resources, and grow a sense of belonging. City Bridges is working to offer parent workshops where cultivated curriculum resources are shared, and parents are taught how to use them effectively. City Bridges will provide childcare and coworking spaces so parents can attend these workshops. The program aims to create a strong nonprofit that allows the community to be included in policymaking and decision-making in the communities they reside in to catalyze growth and opportunity.

    My Why
    “I am a former traditional educator who spent years trying to reform a broken system, only to come to a realization that it was never meant for us in the first place, so it is time to just build something new.”

  • Health & Well-being (5:45pm - Room 24)

    Sponsored by MAGNET & The MetroHealth System
    Promoting the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals and communities.

    Judges
    • Celina Cunanan (LC 2024), Chief Diversity, Equity & Belonging Officer, University Hospitals
    • Ethan Karp, Ph.D. (LC2 2018, LC 2017, CLC Board), President & CEO, MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network
    • Brian Lane (LC2 2022, LC 2021, CLC Board), President & CEO, The Center for Health Affairs & CHAMPS Healthcare
    • Daniel Lettenberger-Klein (LC2 2023, LC 2022), Chief Executive Officer, Stella Maris Inc.
    • Airica Steed, Ph.D. (LC 2024), President & CEO, The MetroHealth System

    Jubilee Wellness Retreats

    Aja Barrett

    Jubilee Wellness Retreats provides three-day wellness retreats for marginalized women of color who also identify as low income. Jubilee Wellness Retreats seeks to respond to the reality that these women are a demographic that have higher rates of physical, mental, and emotional challenges and, particularly in Cleveland, have far less access to resources to help heal and address them. Recent studies have shown that Cleveland is one of the hardest places to thrive as a Black woman. Jubilee Wellness Retreats will celebrate these women by honoring their goals, dreams, and experiences from a comprehensive approach of offerings to their needs, from physical, mental, emotional, cultural, and creative, to spiritual, lending to overall improved quality of life.

    My Why
    “My pitch is in solid recognition and acknowledgment, honor, and acceleration of intentionally curated healing spaces for Black women. In the face of forlorn realities and statistics that show that Cleveland, Ohio, specifically, is exponentially dismal in terms of potential well-being, prosperity, and an authentic, progressive, connective quality of life experience. In hopes to address these issues, meeting Black women where they are, and providing a holistic, strengths-based, collaborative, luxurious space, and approach to healing, inclusivity, collective vision, and contribution.”


    InCircle

    Timothy Hinton

    InCircle is a self-development app that would accelerate building meaningful, healthy relationships by giving people access to interpersonal education, prompts, and calendar sync options to ease scheduling conversations with their close friends and family. The Interpersonal Education section would include brief 60-90 second attention-grabbing demonstrations and concepts to excel at building meaningful connections, covering topics such as how to have deeper conversations, create safe spaces, or navigate difficult discussions. Scheduling conversations with friends and family on the app helps users share their intention to strengthen their connections with each other. On the app, users could schedule routine chats, and the app will automatically generate conversation prompts for them based on their shared interest and topics they selected on the app to keep the conversation always fresh. Following each conversation with friends and family, users can reflect. InCircle provides users with data insights to support their understanding of which connections have provided them with the most value, so they know how often to talk to each person and how to bring out the best in them in every conversation!

    LI: Timothy Hinton

    My Why
    “I am a human bond liaison with my biggest goal being to provide tools to help 100 million people learn skills that help them hear, love, and connect with others more powerfully. With my time, I am typically motivational speaking at schools or spending time with my family and friends having quality conversations. I hope with my presentation I can bring awareness to the loneliness epidemic and how we can move towards a more connected and joy-filled world together.”

    * Timothy is also pitching in the Technovation competition *


     

    Bloom

    Veranda Rodgers

    Bloom is a mental health program for pregnant and postpartum families. The past two years have been especially challenging and have compounded the toxic multi-generational stress that African American women experience daily. Living in a constant state of stress affects both a woman and her fetus, leading to a greater risk of negative birth outcomes. In 2022, 50% of Pregnant with Possibilities Resource Center’s referrals were for mental health services. According to the CDC, one in eight women experience postpartum depression, and half of those affected do not seek treatment. Maternal mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder are the most prominent complications of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, affecting one in five women. Services offered under Bloom will be based on research and designed and curated with insight from those with lived experience – Black women. The organizational mission is to ensure that pregnant and postpartum families are supported mentally during the most vulnerable periods of life to ensure family success. Bloom will capitalize on Pregnant with Possibilities Resource Center’s history of solid outcomes and the trust of its target population.

    My Why
    “I am a nonprofit strategist, educator, and advocate with proven fundraising approaches, marketing strategies and innovation solutions to serve vulnerable populations. Pregnant at 16 could have been the story to derail my life, however these experiences shaped my desire to provide culturally competent sexual health education, perinatal support, tools and techniques that confront the racial disparities in Black women’s maternal health.”


    M.H.M. Youth Summit

    Ariana Smith

    Mental Health Matters: Youth Summit engages high school students in Greater Cleveland in vital discussions about mental health, wellness, and community violence impact. It empowers students through roundtables, workshops, and expert collaborations to advocate for mental health awareness and positive change in schools and communities. The summit’s focus is on creating a supportive environment, equipping students with tools to drive positive changes, and fostering a culture of support and proactive engagement. Participants leave feeling heard, valued, and armed with practical strategies for their lives.

    My Why
    “I’ve long seen myself as a champion for youth and an educator. I decided to participate in Accelerate this year to widen my ability to create a meaningful and immediate difference in our communities.”

Most of the ideas presented at Accelerate are in the early stage of development and the presenters do not have business plans or implementation timelines. The goal of Accelerate is to help them begin the process of bringing their ideas to reality. If a pitch resonates with you, you can help bring it to life by connecting with the presenter(s) at the event or post-event to offer advice, funding, or a connection. You may be the deciding factor in bringing that project to reality.


Entertainment

  • Showcase of success featuring past presenters

    Learn about the successes of past Accelerators from across the past nine years.

    The following past presenters will be onsite to share the progress and impact of their visions so far.

    • Laylah Allen, Missing Link
    • Dawn Arrington, Comics at the Corner
    • Laura Balliet, Cool School Comics
    • Tracy Bellum & Nancy Jones, Clean & Beautiful Cleveland:Block 2 Block
    • Michael Bustamante, Connecting Cleveland
    • Sara Continenza & Katie Signorelli, Food Strong
    • Anycia Grady, Seeking Supervision
    • Allison Hite, Never Ever Give Up
    • India Hobbs, Inner City Trades
    • Kristi Horner, Courage to Caregivers
    • Robert Hunter, 5Pillars
    • Lucas King, Impact Academy
    • Ali Lukascy-Love, Awesome Foundation
    • Alex Michaels, Prelude2Cinema
    • Stephen Prewitt + Keenan Williams, Soundbender Institute
    • Sonya Prior-Jones, Fab House
    • Ali Rosswurm, Food Strong
    • Kathy Sanford, All Hands on Deck: Making Technology Connect
    • Sam Smucny, The CLE: An Online Public Square
    • Myesha Watkins, Another Homegirl
    • Shane Winnyk & Courtney Smith, Grayter Cleveland
  • Emcee

    Mike Polk Jr.

    Widely known for his viral, “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video” series, Mike Polk Jr. has also authored a book, “Damn Right I’m From Cleveland,” performed across the country with the sketch comedy troupe, Last Call Cleveland, and has been recognized as Cleveland’s best comedian by both Cleveland Scene and Cleveland Magazine.

    (X: mikepolkjr  | FB: Mike Polk, Jr. | IG: mikepolkjr)

  • art installations

    Ingenuity Cleveland


    Ingenuity ignites the creative spark among artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators through collaboration and joy to foster community progress.

    (ingenuitycleveland.com)

  • DA LAND BRASS BAND

    Da Land Brass Band

    Featuring a modern take on New Orleans street bands with a high energy funk sound, they are bridging the gap between musical tradition and a vision for the future. Boasting original tunes, funky adaptations of classic songs, and true roots New Orleans music, they have the versatility to satisfy any audience.

    (facebook.com/DaLandBrassBand)

  • Dare 2 Believe Teen Pop-up shops

    Sponsored by Burton D. Morgan Foundation

    In 2018, Tory Coats won Accelerate with his pitch to teach teens how to, “do business by doing business.” A few of his young entrepreneurs are here tonight showcasing their products and services. The pop-up shops are located at the bottom of the escalators/elevators leading to the reception. Stop by and support these young business owners.


Sponsors + supporters

The generosity of the following sponsors, donors, and supporters make Accelerate possible.

  • Sponsors
  • Hosts

    Honorary Chair

    Mayor Justin M. Bibb (CC 2007, LUTC 2004)
    City of Cleveland

    Co-Chairs

    Jim Malz (LC 2005)
    President, Citizens, Ohio

    Bill Caster (LC 2010)
    President, Gries Financial Partners
    Chair, CLC Board of Trustees

    Members

    • David Akers (LC 2007, CBB 2001), Equalis Group
    • Reka Barabas (CBB 2007), EEC
    • John Barnes (LC 2019), Grant Thornton
    • Daniel Berick (LC 2018), Squire Patton Boggs
    • Tom Bernot (LC 2021, CLI 2010, CBB 2009), Falls
    • Kip Bollin (LC 2020, CLC Board), Thompson Hine LLP
    • Antony Bonavita (LC 2021), Cleveland Cavaliers
    • Rochelle Bowman (CLI 2018), Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
    • Micki Byrnes (LL, CEBC 2012, LC 2005, CLC Board), WKYC
    • Charles Chaikin (LC 2019), Blue Point Capital Partners
    • Jamie Cole (LC2 2019, LC 2018), Skin Deep Laser Spa
    • Anita Cook (LC2 2015, LC 2014)
    • Matt Dierker, Centric Consulting
    • Julie Ann Edgar (LC 2019), Lubrizol
    • Mary Kim Elkins  (LC 2019), Eaton
    • John Fasola (LC 2020), Oswald Companies
    • Rick Fedorovich (CLI 2020, LC 2015, CLC Board)
    • Timothy Flanagan (LC 2019), Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP
    • Kathleen Futey (LC 2018), Leopold Advisors, LLC
    • Scott Garson (LC2019), Goods Banks NEO
    • Wes Gillespie (LC 2023, CBB 2007), ERIEBANK
    • James Graham (LC 2018), Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc.
    • Elizabeth Grove (LC 2021, CLC Board), Lubrizol
    • Akil Hameed (LC 2023), FASS Management Real Estate Services
    • Kelly Hancock (LC 2022), Cleveland Clinic
    • Maureen Harper (LC 2018, CLI 2016), Falls
    • Megan Hauer Kacvinsky (LC 2021), Point to Point, Inc.
    • David Heller (LC 2020, CLC Board), The NRP Group LLC
    • Justin Herdman (LC 2023), Jones Day
    • Jill Helfman (LC 2020), Taft
    • iHeartMedia, Inc.
    • Timothy Hilk (LC 2019), YMCA of Greater Cleveland
    • Michael Jeans (LC 2016), Growth Opps
    • Joy Johnson (LC 2021, CBB 2015), Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc.
    • Jessica Jung (LC 2021), Oswald Companies
    • Ira Kaplan (LC 2003), Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP
    • Ethan Karp (LC2 2018, LC 2017, CLC Board), MAGNET The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network
    • Kelly Keefe (LC 2020, CLI 2012), ERC
    • David Kempton (LC 2018), Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
    • Michael Klein (LC 2022), Ciuni & Panichi
    • Robert Klonk (LC2 2017, LC 2016, CLC Board), Oswald Companies
    • Susan Krantz (CLI 2011), Zinner & Co. LLP
    • Edward Largent III (LC 2010), Westfield
    • Craig Martin (LC2 2023, LC 2022 ), Adcom
    • George Mateyo (LC 2023, CLI 2021), Key
    • Rebecca Ruppert McMahon (LC 2018, CBB 2008), Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
    • Ginger Mlakar (LC2 2015, LC 2014, CLC Board), Cleveland Foundation
    • Kim & Heath Monesmith (LC 2018), Eaton
    • Gregg Muresan (LC 2022), PwC
    • Azim Nakhooda (LC 2019), Cedar Brook Group
    • Matthew Nakon (LC 2023), Wickens Herzer Panza
    • Charles Napoli (LC 2020), Saint Martin de Porres High School
    • Jeffrey Nicholson (LC 2018, CLI 2012), Aon Risk Solutions
    • Brittany O’Connor (CBB 2003), Citizens
    • Randy Paine (LC 2018), Key
    • Tracey Petkovic (LC 2023), Westfield
    • Brent Pietrafese (LC 2020), Calfee
    • Jon Pinney (LC2 2019, LC 2018), KJK
    • Cecilia Render, Nordson Corporation Foundation
    • Jim Rollins (LC 2020), Meaden & Moore
    • Enid Rosenberg (LL, ALI 2018, LC 2007), Community Volunteer
    • Stuart Rosenberg (LC2 2014, LC 2013, CLC Board), Westfield
    • Jon Ruple (LC 2021, CLI 2015), Maloney + Novotny LLC
    • David Shimotakahara (LC 2018), GroundWorks DanceTheater
    • John Smetanko
    • Megan Spinos (LC 2023), Deloitte
    • Stephen Strayer (LC 2022), PNC
    • Terry Szmagala (LC 2018), Eaton
    • Drew Stelzer (CBB 2021, OBC 2019), First Commonwealth Insurance Agency
    • Eddie Taylor Jr. (LC 2000), Taylor Oswald, LLC
    • Michael Toth (LC 2020), Westfield
    • Maximus Trotter (CBB 2014), Amazon
    • Julie Tutkovics (LC 2022, CBB 2005), Huntington
    • Martin Uhle (LC 2022), Community West Foundation
    • Daniel Urban (LC 2019), Wickens Herzer Panza
    • Tracy Vigh (LC 2020, CBB 2017), Deloitte
    • Tod Wagner (LC 2017), Bober Markey Fedorovich
    • Robert Walker (LC 2017), CIBC
    • Nadine Wallman (LC 2022, CLI 2013), Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
    • Rob Ware (LC 2023), Thompson Hine LLP
    • Richard Wesorick (LC 2019), Tarolli, Sundheim, Covell & Tummino LLP
    • Lisa Williams (LC 2021), Cuyahoga Community College
    • Leon Wilson (LC 2023, CLI 2016), Cleveland Foundation
  • In-kind supporters
    • Michael Barakiva of Cleveland Play House
    • ECDI
    • ioby
    • Notre Dame College
    • Andrea Peck of Andrea Peck Communications
    • Jack Ricchiuto of Flawless Planning
    • SEA Change NEO
    • Zinner & Co. LLP