The DEC Network's BIG Pitch powered by Strategic Innovation

January 25, 2023

The Big Pitch, a high energy pitch contest, was held at Toyota Headquarters. Business owners from around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex arrived to share their business story, goals, and plans to compete for the grand prize that would boost them and their startup on to the next level of success. The competition showed not just the passion of the presenters, but also from the sponsors who were excited to promote the innovation currently happening in North Texas.

The DEC Network's BIG Pitch, powered by Strategic Innovation, (SI), the business incubation arm of Toyota Financial Services (TFS),” highlighted all of the innovators in attendance. The DEC Network is a nonprofit organization that promotes economic impact by helping entrepreneurs start, build, and grow their businesses. In fact, all the businesses participating in The Big Pitch came from DEC Network cohorts. Another big thank you for hosting this event goes out to Global Entrepreneurship Week , a global celebration of entrepreneurship that occurs the second week of November to create solutions for worldwide economic growth.

The Big Pitch is an event celebrated on a local level with the goal to promote and empower entrepreneurs in the DFW community. Stacey Miller, National Manager for SI, gave the opening remarks, and Ajey Deveraj, Product Development Manager for SI, served as the evening’s MC.

“The entrepreneurial spirit in North Texas is thriving and the time is now to stoke the fire,” said Miller. “Through the Big Pitch and our partnership with the DEC, we are given the opportunity to grow North Texas’s diverse entrepreneur community and support local economic growth. Through pitch competitions like the Big Pitch, we hope to find ways to collaborate with local start-ups which is a win-win for all,” Miller continued.

“At Toyota, continuous improvement and respect for people are core values,” Deveraj stated. “We know innovation is difficult, it cannot just happen within the four walls of Toyota. By hosting this event, Toyota had an opportunity to embrace and engage local entrepreneurs, including those from underserved communities, to broaden Toyota’s outreach in the startup space. I strongly felt ’The Big Pitch’ event allowed Toyota to take that first intentional step and present ourselves as a corporation that the startup ecosystem wants to work with.”

The local entrepreneurs at the event were all very passionate about their businesses. They each spoke about their company, their future goal in growing their company, and what they would do with the proceeds if they were selected as winners of The Big Pitch. Following their presentations was a Q&A session with the judges:  Ellen Farrell, Toyota Group Vice President, Chief Legal, Compliance and Administrative Officer, Dan Langlois, Toyota Vice President, Operational Excellence and Education, Richard Hsieh, Toyota National Manager, Competitiveness and M&A, Darlisa Diltz, Managing Director of North Texas Entrepreneur and Education Center, and Holly Burrow, Principal Startup Advisor & Founder for eqALL.

While all nine of the businesses pitched were impressive, Casey Morris, CEO and Founder of Blk Tech DFW won first prize, $20K from Strategic Innovation Powered by Toyota Financial Services. Jarnett Wright, founder of Higher Rewards won second place, a software package. Third place went to Totteanna Shanklin from Xoli. Shanklin won access to an instructor led Toyota business practice training for small businesses.

Deveraj was excited about the businesses and talent represented at The Big Pitch. “Toyota is lucky to be in a geographical area like DFW where there is so much activity happening in the startup space. There is so much creativity and boldness in solving for legacy and new problems alike. When I saw the pure energy in a room full of entrepreneurs, I knew at that instant I can do more (as a corporate innovation representative), to push the envelope on status quo’s and make some wild bets.”

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