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Deadline approaching to sign up for Hy-Vee’s Inclusive Business Summit – MSR News Online

Submitted photo Denisha Jones

Hy-Vee has committed $50,000 to advance local minority and women-owned businesses across greater Minneapolis

Chances are good that in the next year, you will be able to dig into Sweet Peaches Cobblers, soon to be available at Hy-Vee. “During the pandemic, we wanted comfort food. I kept thinking about my grandma’s peach cobbler. There was nothing like that in the freezer section at the store so I started dabbling until I made one that mimicked hers,” said Denisha Jones of Kansas City, Mo.

The experiment to re-create Grandma’s dumpling-style Southern cobbler turned Denisha into an entrepreneur. After friends raved over her recipe, she formed a business with her husband and began turning out cobblers from a commercial kitchen. Soon it was featured at the famous Kansas City BBQ Festival, where she sold 20,000 servings to enthusiastic attendees.

That success prompted Jones to sign up to pitch at Hy-Vee’s OpportUNITY Inclusive Business Summit in Kansas City last fall. A panel of judges awarded her the grand prize of $30,000 to further develop her line of products.

“With that investment, we can scale up. We will be in over 150 stores all over the Midwest within a year,” said Denisha. “Without Hy-Vee, we wouldn’t be positioned for any of that.”

Now Minnesota’s minority and women-owned businesses can try to replicate what Jones accomplished in Kansas City. Hy-Vee is hosting a Twin Cities OpportUNITY Inclusive Business Summit on Thursday, February 9 at US Bank Stadium-Polaris Club in space provided by the Minnesota Vikings.

“It’s a full day when we bring small business owners together. We will have breakout sessions, panel discussions, and most of all, networking sessions. Making connections can really further the goals of small businesses,” said Dawn Buzynski, Hy-Vee assistant vice president.

One of the highlights of the day will be the pitch competition, where local business owners can showcase their goods and services. A panel of judges will award one grand-prize winner of $30,000. In addition, one first-place $5000 prize will be awarded to a winner from each category.

Categories for submission include food and beverage; product innovation and technology; and
health, wellness, and beauty. Additional cash investments may be awarded and select finalists may be invited to participate in further discussions regarding their product or service.

This gives us an opportunity to elevate upcoming entrepreneurs with unique products and services,” said Buzynski. “We’re interested in businesses that are game-changers and we love things that come with an interesting back story.”

Tameka Jones, the owner of the beauty brand Lip Esteem, has already signed up to pitch in the health, wellness, and beauty category.

Tameka Jones of Lip Esteem working on a client

Tameka had a long career as a makeup artist. When she started her business, she created lipsticks herself. Now she works with a custom formulator who produces the plant-based, cruelty-free cosmetic line she sells at her storefront in the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul.

Tameka dreams about winning the grand prize of a $30,000 investment. “The response from my customers has been amazing. It’s locally popular but I want to be a national or international brand,” said Tameka. “I’ve been bootstrapping and putting my money back into the business. I could use a team and a plan to help with marketing to get my name out there and take me to the next level.”

Even if she doesn’t win the prize, Tameka anticipates the event will help her connect to and network with other Minnesota entrepreneurs of color.

“I look forward to letting people know about my products,” she said. “I’m a social enterprise so community is very important, this is more than a paycheck. I want to be around other people who have a wider view of what a business can be.”

Businesses that want to pitch must apply at www.hy-veeopportunitysummit.com by January 12, 2023. There is no cost to apply. 

Hy-Vee’s OpportUNITY Inclusive Business Summit takes place on Feb. 9, from 7:30 am-4:30 pm, at U.S. Bank Stadium, Polaris Club, located at 401 Chicago Ave., in Minneapolis.

To register for the summit, go to www.hy-veeopportunitysummit.com/summit/minnesota. The deadline to sign up is Feb. 3


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