Douglas County business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs can earn funding, training through free pitch competition

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Local business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can receive support molding business pitches and then compete for a chance to earn funding from a $25,000 prize pool.

The Douglas County Pitch Competition, by Black:30 and Douglas County CORE, is open to people with businesses at all stages — whether they’re ideas, ready to launch, in their infancy or fully operational.

Kyle Johnson, CORE founder and CEO, said it’ll be a “great way to nurture ideas and early stage entrepreneurs” and help established businesses grow.

In April 2023, CORE hosted its inaugural startup pitch competition. Twelve businesses participated. Expanding pitch opportunities is part of Black:30 and CORE’s two-year plan to build entrepreneurship in Lawrence and Douglas County.

This time around, 18 pitch slots — nine for tech companies and nine for non-tech companies — are allotted. Applying to participate is free.

Black:30 President Taylor Overton said slots are still open, and applications will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 15. 

Prize money is meant to support startup or business expenses. First place will earn $4,000; second place, $3,000; third place, $2,500; fourth place, $1,500; and fifth through ninth places will each earn $300, so all participants will walk away with some prize money.

Weekly training sessions have aimed to help prepare participants leading up to the competition. Black:30 and CORE professionals will offer a pitch deck template and give pointers about what investors may be looking for. They can also refer to other training and financing programs.

The Douglas County Pitch Competition is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 25 at the Jayhawk Welcome Center, 1266 Oread Ave. Each participant will have an allotted time for their pitch.

To pitch, attend, volunteer or donate, register on CORE’s website,

Participants can practice their pitches during four upcoming group sessions at 4:30 to 6 p.m. April 11, 16, 18 and 23 at the KU Innovation Park auditorium, inside the building on the left at 2033 Becker Drive.

Participants can also book a solo meeting for one-on-one support, if preferable, using an online form via Calendly.

Visit CORE’s website,, for more information on the training sessions. Learn more about Black:30 at

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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