Fourth Hornets Innovation Summit Presented By Bank Of America Now Open For Local Minority Businesses, Entrepreneurs

Applications Open Through January 31 For Chance To Receive $15,000 Investment

January 8, 2024 – Hornets Sports & Entertainment (HSE) today announced that it is now accepting applications for the fourth Hornets Innovation Summit Presented by Bank of America, an initiative that aims to support economic mobility in Charlotte. Minority entrepreneurs and businesses that are at least 51% operated and controlled by minority group members (i.e., individuals who are at least 25% Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American) and located within 150 miles of Spectrum Center are invited to apply, with one applicant receiving a $15,000 investment from the Charlotte Hornets.

Applications are available now at hornets.com/innovationsummit and will close on Wednesday, January 31. Applicants that are selected to move on to Round 2 will have their one-minute pitch videos posted on hornets.com and social media outlets for fan voting. The finalists, which will be determined through a combination of fan voting and an internal selection committee, will then present their business and/or product live at Spectrum Center to a panel of experts in March. 

“The Innovation Summit is one of our favorite annual initiatives, and we’re thrilled to again be working with Bank of America to provide social and financial capital to minority entrepreneurs and businesses within our community,” said Hornets Sports & Entertainment Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Betsy Mack. “We’ve met some incredible people doing very impressive work over the past three years, and we are proud to play a small part in their business journey. We look forward to seeing this year’s pitches and meeting more incredible entrepreneurs.”

“We are honored to again partner with the Charlotte Hornets on this significant initiative supporting the economic progress of minority-led small business owners across our community,” said Kieth Cockrell, president, Bank of America Charlotte. “Both organizations are deeply committed to advancing racial equality and economic opportunity, and the Innovation Summit is just one way we’re creating impact in the community.”

All applicants to the Hornets Innovation Summit Presented by Bank of America will receive access to a live Investor Ready training workshop from the UNC Charlotte Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), designed to aid them in preparing business pitch decks and conducting customer discovery, along with other entrepreneurship topics. In addition, those who advance to the final round will participate in a live and interactive mentoring session to help them prepare for their presentations.

“CEI is honored to bring our expertise to this important summit, drawing on what we have learned through our extensive work with students, faculty and community innovators,” said CEI Executive Director Krista Saral. “Our center focuses on research-driven solutions to complex issues and in developing infrastructure that enables entrepreneurs to flourish.”

Previous winners of the Hornets Innovation Summit Presented by Bank of America have seen welcomed success. Kevin Gatlin, Founder and CEO Playtime Edventures – a unique line of interactive bedsheets and slumber bags for kids – and the recipient of the $15,000 investment in 2023 said, “Winning the competition was a turning point for us, resulting in a significant increase in sales through our website and Amazon.” Similarly, 2022 winner Elizabeth Escobar saw a 41 percent increase in subscribers to her bilingual job platform, Hay Trabajo, and formed partnerships with more than a dozen new businesses and nonprofits, helping them to identify and hire Spanish-speaking or bilingual talent. 

This marks the third consecutive year Bank of America has served as the presenting partner of the program, which was launched in conjunction with HSE’s Social Justice Platform in 2021.