As a Spanish immersion kindergarten teacher in Detroit early in her career, Celeste Green witnessed the power of in-depth language and cultural experiences on a young child’s learning. Breaking barriers between classroom and community, neighborhood field trips to local businesses helped students connect the dots through real-life applications such as ordering off the restaurant menu or counting back change in Spanish.
“That time was magical and it was life changing,” Green said. “When I left that classroom years ago I knew it was my passion and my mission to create language opportunities for as many children as I possibly could but especially for children who would not otherwise have that opportunity.”
Fast forward over two decades: Green’s dreams are a reality.
She won the $1,500 grand prize in the “Grow” category at this year’s Pitch @ WCC entrepreneurial pitching competition hosted at Washtenaw Community College this week.
Green’s company, Spanish For Kids, opens doors to learning a new language and culture to children ages 4-11 years old, when their minds are most “primed.” She said her company was recently awarded a contract to bring Spanish for Kids to all Ypsilanti elementary schools. Her prize will help address business growth needs such as expanding the teaching curriculum and developing new software.
The competition has been hosted by The Entrepreneurship Center at WCC since 2016 and is open to the community. This year’s Pitch @ WCC returned in a virtual format after last year’s event was canceled during the height of the pandemic.
After several stages of the virtual competition, winners in three categories were announced during a virtual celebration on Tuesday. Grand prize, runner-up and second runner-up awards were presented in three categories:
- “Grow” for established businesses
- “Build” for new businesses
- “Start” for business concepts
“A global pandemic did not stop the WCC Entrepreneurship Center from having our Pitch or from serving our community by continuing to work as a resource as businesses made a pivot,” said Kimberly Hurns, Executive Vice President of Instruction and Academic Affairs.
“Our Entrepreneurship Center is all about taking risks and teaching and modeling that risk-taking,” she added. “It’s about you betting on yourself, developing and learning and contributing, which aligns with the mission here at Washtenaw Community College.”
The grand prize winner in the “Build” category ($1,250) was Jacqueline Sun, whose company Brassi produces healthy, convenient and sustainable breakfasts.
The grand prize winner in the “Start” category ($750) was Susan Baskett, whose business plan for Black Hair Matters is to offer a professional, family-friendly salon for Black children and those with highly textured hair.
The full slate of winners for Pitch @ WCC 2021 are:
- Grand Prize $1,500: Celeste Green, Spanish For Kids
- Runner Up $1,000: Leslie Neal, True 2 You
- 2nd Runner Up $500: Rita Shelley, Cheeky Spices
- Grand Prize $1,250: Jacqueline Sun, Brassi
- Runner Up $750: Laura Roughton, Revive Functional Nutrition
- 2nd Runner Up $500: Elizabeth Levy, Essay Help For Colleges
- Grand Prize $750: Susan Baskett, Black Hair Matters
- Runner Up $400: Sarah Burch, NamaSitter
- 2nd Runner Up $250: LaWanda Hollister, The Chow Hall
Each of the 12 finalists also received one free professional development class at WCC valued at up to $200 from the Office of WCC Corporate and Lifelong Learning.
Visit the Pitch @ WCC webpage to watch each of the 12 finalists’ pitches.