AP NEWS

Accelerate 2018 finalists to make civic pitches in this year’s competition on Feb. 27

January 16, 2019

Accelerate 2018 finalists to make civic pitches in this year’s competition on Feb. 27

CLEVELAND, Ohio - People with visions of creating positive change in Cleveland will pitch their ideas at the fifth annual Accelerate: Citizens Make Change next month.

Individuals and teams will present 28 ideas that touch nearly everyone in Northeast Ohio. The event is open to the public to hear projects that leverage the arts to improve neighborhood connections, and that address issues involving refugees, youth, and people who are homeless. Some ideas use website, podcast and blockchain technology. Presenters range from teenagers to retirees and represent a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.

The winning pitch receives $5,000 and the five runners-up each get $2,000. The event begins at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the Global Center for Health Innovation. It’s presented by the Cleveland Leadership Center in partnership with Citizens Bank.

Tory Coats snagged last year’s top prize for his idea of giving young entrepreneurs opportunities to sell products out of under-utilized storefronts and vacant lots in the inner city. Since then, he’s helped teen entrepreneurs develop their ideas and sell products at various pop-up events throughout the city. And he’s bringing teen entrepreneurs to sell items at the 2019 Accelerate event.

“Accelerate opened me up to different resources in the community and allowed me to cultivate a network of caring people who want to support teen entrepreneurs,” said Coats, 41, who is the director of Career Readiness at Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland. Later this month, he plans to travel to Honduras in efforts to launch a teen entrepreneurship cultural exchange program.

Tory Coats says Accelerate 2018 helped him continue to help teen entrepreneurs. Coats, far right, won the Accelerate: Citizens Make Change civic pitch event last year. Since that time he’s continued to help teen entrepreneurs shape and act on their ideas with pop-up events throughout the city.

Visit www.cleveleads.org/Accelerate for details about 2019 participants and their ideas. Check out this year’s presenters.

At the event, panels of prominent community leaders will judge preliminary competitions and select one finalist in each of six categories: Authentic Cleveland Experiences (a new category this year), Community Change, Economic and Workforce Development, Educating for Tomorrow, Health & Wellness, and Quality of Life.

The six finalists will make their pitches, and the audience will vote on their phones to select the winner. Last year, nearly 500 people were in the audience.

Some participants say Accelerate gives people courage and support whether they win or not.

At the first Accelerate competition in 2015, Matthew Fieldman pitched, and won for Cleveland Codes, his software bootcamp idea. The idea transformed into a full-fledged academy within Tri-C, helping low-income individuals gain the skills and connections for sustainable software careers each year.

Lee Chilcote, who also pitched a literary conference at the first Accelerate competition, wasn’t a winner. But he says the event gave him momentum to hold the conference later that year, in partnership with the Cleveland Public Library.

He went on to form a new nonprofit, Literary Cleveland, www.litcleveland.org, a program that has touched thousands of lives through workshops, readings, and other events focused on creating a stronger community of writers and readers in Cleveland.

“Accelerate gave us the kick in the pants to get going,” Chilcote said.

“It was the combination of having a deadline, the opportunity to get feedback on our pitch, and the chance to present in front of a panel of judges,” he said. “All of those things helped turn our idea into a reality.”

AP RADIO
Update hourly