"One person can make a difference, and everyone should try" - JFK“Did you win!?! Did you win!?!” My guess is that all the presenters at the Cleveland Leadership Center’s Accelerate 2016 pitch training workshop yesterday fielded some variation of that question on their way home. And while Adam Kern, a local actor and producer, was awarded the $1,000 cash-prize for his theatrical endeavor, The Midnight Society, I’m confident that everyone who attended gained valuable experience and new connections to help bring our big ideas one step closer to implementation.

I was particularly inspired by fellow non-profit professional and mom, Jessica Leary Allen, a Development Consultant who made it to the finals in last night’s fan-favorite pitch contest, sponsored by Notre Dame College.  We each had two opportunities to present in front of Cleveland Leadership Center alumni and professor Bill Leamon’s Social Entrepreneur students in small group sessions. After receiving feedback from our test audience, four presenters were chosen to practice their pitch for the entire group. Allen’s innovative idea for connecting mothers opting back into the workforce with meaningful projects at local not-for-profit agencies spoke right to my heart, as a mom who has tried for years to balance meaningful work with the needs of my family.

One of the best, unanticipated rewards of last night’s event was the opportunity to spend time waiting with other presenters as each pitch took place.  We talked nervously and enthusiastically about our ideas, laughed together at our newbie foibles and kept busy exchanging support and business cards. I have long believed that anyone who doesn’t get excited about the future of our city just isn’t spending enough time with the right people and organizations.

I look forward to sharing more inspiring energy with this diverse group of passionate, civic-minded entrepreneurs on February 24th at the official Accelerate 2016: Citizens Make Change civic pitch competition, and I hope you’ll consider joining us if you could use a dose of the same! You can learn more about all the presenters and make reservations to attend through the Cleveland Leadership Center website. Admission includes complimentary valet parking, appetizers and one drink ticket, PLUS the chance to vote in our final round of competition for a grand prize of $5,000.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this event possible, especially sponsors Citizen’s Bank and CLC. In some ways, it feels like I’ve already won, just by being part of something I know will bring more positive energy to the city I love!

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