Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman joined Maryland Department of Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz and City of Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley in surprising the second cohort of AAEDC’s Inclusive Ventures Program (IVP) with congratulatory videos at the group’s graduation and pitch day on Wednesday, October 27, during Maryland Economic Development Week.
Introduced by AAEDC in January 2021, IVP aims to help small and minority-, women-, and Veteran-owned businesses in Anne Arundel County succeed and grow by providing their owners with the resources that early-stage entrepreneurs so often lack: business education and training, access to capital, and mentorship.
Reflecting the diversity of Anne Arundel County’s businesses, the eleven participating business owners included:
- Emily Tomasini, Piratequest, Inc., Annapolis
- Al’nisa Broadway, Small Cakes Maryland LLC, Annapolis
- Tawana (Michelle) Davy, Davy Dance Academy, LLC, Annapolis
- Barbara Duvall, Bowl of Cherries, Crownsville
- Sandra Ahiekpor, EL& S LLC, Laurel
- Ravinder Thakur, CMR Enterprises Inc., Annapolis
- Montoya Silver, Textures LLC, Odenton
- Jaron Rice, Magothy Payments, Inc., Severna Park
- Shay Cook, Crusaders for Change, LLC, Odenton
- LaToya Nkongolo, Work Life Behavorial Health and Professional Training, LLC, Glen Burnie
- Lisa Ennis, The Ty-Ci Group, Odenton
“It’s so important for us to promote and encourage small and minority-owned businesses in this county,” said Pittman. “Their success and growth is key to creating intergenerational wealth, and IVP is a tremendous program that provides business owners with the training and resources that can help make that happen.”
“I’d like to congratulate each and every member of the second group of entrepreneurs to graduate from Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation’s Inclusive Ventures Program,” added Schulz. “It’s very fitting that you’re graduating during Maryland Economic Development Week, when we take time to celebrate the contributions of state economic developers.”
“Small, minority, woman, and Veteran-owned businesses play a pivotal role in grassroots economic development throughout the state, and the challenges of the past two years have reminded us how important it is that we have a close-knit community of businesses and economic developers who can share resources and learn from each other. So kudos to AAEDC for establishing this forward-thinking program, and kudos to each graduate – we know there are great things in your future, and we can’t wait to see you apply the mentorship and guidance that you’ve received to your business.”
Buckley gave a special nod to two of the businesses, both located in Annapolis.
“We appreciate your businesses in our city,” said Buckley. “Pirate Adventures is one of my favorite things to do with my kids, because it gets us out on the water, and of course Treasure Island is a true mainstay on Main Street. So congratulations to everybody – thank you for your hard work, for your small business, and for employing people.”
Before hearing these remarks, each business owner presented his or her business growth plans to and responded to questions from a panel of expert judges, including potential investors. They then received a certificate for completing all components of the IVP – seven consecutive weeks of weekly three-hour classes led by business consultant Will Holmes, a recruiter for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, and consultations with legal, human resources, and accounting experts provided by AAEDC. Each participant received a $5,000 seed grant to serve as working capital for their business.
To learn more, visit the Inclusive Ventures Program page.
We spoke with Keasha Haythe, the brainchild behind the program after it was launched. Have a listen…