Multicultural Small Business Innovation Lab Pitch Competition

Meet the winners of the ‘Shark Tank’-style venture competition in Western New York.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

We're excited to share that Franketta Willoughby Daycare, Unapologetic Coffee and BCW Dispatching and Consulting Group were awarded funding to accelerate their growth, after being named the top three winners in the pitch competition held as part of the bank’s Multicultural Small Business Innovation Lab

In addition to the ‘Shark Tank’-style venture competition, the six-week Innovation Lab program provided multicultural-owned businesses with guidance and education in business planning, establishing credit, accessing capital, marketing and networking. The instruction – which was supplemented by coaching and mentoring – will help the participating companies continue to innovate, solve community challenges and grow.

Learn more about the winners below. And M&T employees, this post is shareable on social media – so click share and spread the news! 

Franketta Willoughby Daycare Earns Top Prize of $5,000

Born and raised in Buffalo, Franketta Willoughby started her daycare company in 2015, recognizing the need to help single parents access high-quality, affordable care for their children. Certified by the Office of Children & Family Services, her company currently provides learning experiences and care to six children, ages six weeks to 11 years old.

As the pitch competition’s top winner, Willoughby plans to use her prize funding to increase her space so she can accept more children, hoping to expand from serving three to eight families in the next six months. She also wants to launch a website and improve her marketing. Operating under a business model that emphasizes affordability for working parents, Willoughby’s company fills a critical gap as demand for daycare services surges regionally.

“I love kids and I love helping them learn in a fun, safe learning environment,” Willoughby said. “This funding will help me create job opportunities for my community by hiring more employees because, of course, I can't do everything by myself. With the growth of serving more children, I’ll need to reach out to get more help.”

Unapologetic Coffee Awarded $3,000 Second-Place Prize

Inspired by their grandmother’s generous spirt and love of coffee, Alicia and Alisa Officer launched Unapologetic Coffee to make specialty coffee more accessible to Black and Brown people in Buffalo. Shedding light on the lack of representation in the coffee industry, the Officer sisters will provide a high-quality product in a welcoming environment while educating their customers and making them feel valued and appreciated.

Unapologetic Coffee – which sources Fair Trade coffee sustainably and manufactures transparently – produces small-batch roasts and sells their products to other businesses and directly to consumers via online sales and subscription services. The company plans to use its prize funding to hire a part-time staff member to help manage their social media channels and expand their marketing capabilities.

“Especially with young people, we want them to see that representation matters,” said Co-Founder and CEO Alicia Officer. She added, “With our business, we want people to recognize that we have something you want to sit with, we have something you want to sit around the table and talk to your friends about.”

“The manufacturing has been really important for us. Every aspect of the roast, from bean to mug, has been thought out carefully,” said Co-Founder and COO Alisa Officer. She added, “A big part of our initiative is reinvestment into our community. We were very steadfast on our location… to prove that there is a need for in the market for our product.”

BCW Dispatching & Consulting Group Secures $2,000 Third-Place Prize

A company that contributes to the global efforts to improve the efficiency of supply chains, BCW Dispatching and Consulting Group partners with owner-operator truck drivers to provide back-office services that empower drivers to maximize their deliveries and revenues. Led by CEO and Fleet Manager Brianna Clemons, BCW lives out its motto – “Focus on the road while we focus on you!” – by helping owner-operators secure freight, negotiate rates, plan routes and remain in compliance with regulations. The company’s services represent an important solution to the shortage of truck drivers facing our nation, a challenge that has significant economic effects.

With the funding secured through M&T’s pitch competition, Clemons will explore upgrading BCW’s software and technology, hiring more dispatchers to reach and serve more drivers and expanding the company’s access to freight for its drivers.

“Learning never stops, so that’s why I wanted to attend this program,” Clemons said. “I'm going to impact our community by making sure the truck drivers who are coming out of Buffalo, New York, are knowledgeable, highly skilled and compliant. But, the market is not limited, so I feel like I can expand anywhere in the country with this business.”