The Clock Starts Now! Vistra Partners With HBCU Founders Initiative for Business Pitch Competition

It鈥檚 the chance of a lifetime.

During the Better Futures Pitch Competition, young entrepreneurs had just minutes to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges for a shot at $25,000 in funding. The event is an accelerator for students and alums from Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), organized by the HBCU Founders Initiative.

As a proud HBCU partner, SVP & Chief Marketing Officer Sydney Seiger and SVP & Chief Customer Officer John Duessel served as panelists for the 鈥淪tartup Speed Dating鈥 event, where panelists evaluated the students鈥 two-minute business pitch and one-liner. Seiger offered lessons on how to get customer feedback and evaluate new market segments, while Duessel provided advice on translating a business idea into a business plan.

Seiger also volunteered as a pitch mentor and coach for a Prairie View A&M University student, mentoring her student virtually before the event, held at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in聽Washington, D.C., in April.


Ahriana Edwards, from Fayetteville State University, won first place for her business Vaila Shoes. The idea for Vaila Shoes came from Edwards鈥 frustration of never finding her shoe size in quality high heels.

Angel Teagle captured the second-place prize for his Car Seat Companion, representing Elizabeth City Start University. The company creates car seat technology that helps prevent pediatric vehicular heatstroke.

From North Carolina AT&T State University, Leslie Winston rounds out the top 3 and is a fan favorite. Winston founded Monocle, a social e-reader that delivers a community-focused reading experience through shared notes within a book.

Vistra鈥檚 participation in the Better Futures Pitch Competition and partnership initiatives with HBCUs across the U.S. is part of a to organizations working for social justice and equity.