(LONG BEACH, CA – June 15, 2023) Yesterday, the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) Economic Development Committee approved $20,000 in start-up awards to six Downtown Long Beach entrepreneurs.  

The finalists presented at Pitchfest, a “Shark Tank-style” business pitch competition organized by DLBA, two weeks ago. Now in its sixth year, the Pitchfest Incubator Awards are presented to business owners who pitch stand-out product ideas, business plans and concepts to a panel of judges comprised of Long Beach economic and community leaders. To qualify for Pitchfest, participants completed the entirety of DLBA’s 10-workshop Entrepreneur & Small Business Education Series, a program coordinated in partnership with Long Beach State University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Farmers & Merchants Bank. 

“As we conclude our sixth year of the Entrepreneur & Small Business Education Series, I find myself inspired and motivated by the spirit of this cohort. We’re encouraged by this renewed energy, and hopeful this is representative of a rebounding small business community,” said Stephanie El Tawil, DLBA Economic Development & Policy Manager. “This free comprehensive education series and annual Pitchfest is one of several DLBA programs designed to invest in a diverse group of growing businesses in Downtown.” 

Please join DLBA in congratulating the Pitchfest Incubator Award 2023 winners – who also receive one-on-one legal and business strategy support from Stone Law and Fuller Management Corp., among other prizes:

• Culinarian
– Irving Barcenas: $5,000
A social cooking platform where users can teach and learn from each other through livestream video.

• Terravan Solar – Alexander LaPelch: $5,000
A solar energy company providing a hardware suite of off-grid power solutions for vans and recreational vehicles.

• Howard Coaching & Consulting, LLC – Jocelyn Howard: $2,500
Providing services and products to help college students with career development, employers with workforce solutions and entrepreneurs with small business development.

• Mama Cheesecake – Marian Lopez: $2,500
Handcrafted artisanal cheesecakes and pastries.

• Downtown Nursery – Elliot Gonzales: $2,500
A Downtown Nursery sourcing and selling drought tolerant, native plants.

• Indie Genius Group (IGG) Amazon Consulting – Ric Salinas: $2,500
Providing consultation services to help small businesses navigate Amazon services

Irving Barcenas, who was awarded $5,000, will use the boost in funding to launch a social cooking platform, Culinarian, where users can teach and learn from each other through livestream video.

“By participating in this educational series, I gained exposure to an incredible resource and a new community right here in Downtown Long Beach,” said Barcenas. “The series and Pitchfest allowed for so many connections to be made, and thanks to this award, we will be launching the first version of our social cooking platform, Culinarian, this September.” 

Fourteen businesses participated in this year’s Pitchfest competition, while 19 participants received a Certificate of Completion from the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship for attending all 10 workshop sessions, while a total of 114 participants attended one of the 10 workshop sessions. Legacy sponsor Farmers & Merchants Bank, which committed $90,000 for awards grants over the last three years, offered a well-deserved congratulations to the winners and all who attended the series.     

“As a longtime partner of DLBA, Farmers & Merchants Bank supports the entrepreneurs of Downtown Long Beach through this grant program, as well as other initiatives, to stimulate our Downtown economy, create more jobs, and empower the entrepreneurial spirit that drives growth and innovation,” said Farmers & Merchants Bank President Henry Walker. “Congratulations to the Incubator Award winners and a job well done to all of the entrepreneurs who participated.”

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About DLBA: DLBA is a nonprofit, community-based organization whose mission is to cultivate, preserve and promote a healthy, safe, and prosperous Downtown. By balancing the interests of the residents, as well as businesses, the DLBA creates tangible progress by way of vested interest and solidified partnerships across local, municipal, and commercial lines. For additional information, visit www.downtownlongbeach.org, or follow on Facebook @downtownlongbeach, on Twitter @dlba and Instagram @dlba.