By Lorie Nguyen, Program Manager

Bank of the West has been a dedicated partner of Operation HOPE for more than 10 years, helping to advance Operation HOPE’s mission of financial education and economic empowerment in underserved communities.

On April 5, 2016, Bank of the West and Operation HOPE joined forces at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel to assist local entrepreneurs during an engaging 2-hour event. The 2016 Legal Team “Fast Pitch” Challenge, was born to benefit 15 aspiring entrepreneurs and 5 start-up company owners from Operation HOPE’s Small Business Empowerment Program. Contestants shared their stories with attorneys, senior executives and banking professionals in small group sessions. These small groups sessions were intended to explore key questions and challenges impacting small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. During the small sessions, the Bank of the West team offered their expertise and provided professional advice to the entrepreneurs, intended to help them overcome roadblocks and build success.

After the small sessions, the event transitioned into the “Fast Pitch” Challenge! The 5 businesses that participated infastpitch this portion of the programming included: Aquatics 4 Life, Love You Revolution, Panache’, Twisted Teddys, and Walker Productions. Each of these 5 start-up owners gave 5-minute business pitches that culminated in the awarding of $1,500 in capital investment dollars for each of the top 2 winning pitches. The 2016 Legal Team “Fast Pitch” Challenge winners were Micaela Passeri, owner of women empowerment clothing company, Love You Revolution, and Jared Walker, owner of lifestyle branding media production company, Walker Production. Both businesses provided compelling pitches that grabbed the judges’ attention, and fired back quick responses to hard hitting questions.

All 5 businesses were truly exceptional! In the end, all participants on each side of the judging table walked away with more knowledge, and received the opportunity to pay it forward with their fellow aspiring entrepreneurs. We HOPE that this is the first of many “Fast Pitch” Challenges to come for our Small Business Empowerment entrepreneurs!