Billed as the place “Where innovation meets opportunity,” Spark Tank Pitch Fest 2024 awarded more than $25,000 to local entrepreneurs to use the principles of business to address community issues. 

Valley Adobe LLC won $10,000, PCA Now received $8,000 and Eden Café took home $5,000 at the event, which took place from 1:30-4:00 p.m. Thursday, March 21, in BC Lounge on the main FPU campus, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave., Fresno. Two other contestants—The-A-Sign and Community Chest—each received $1,000 and free participation in CCT’s Social Enterprise Academy, a series of workshops designed to develop social enterprises. 

Spark Tank Pitch Fest is a signature program of the Fresno Pacific University Center for Community Transformation. Since 2013 Spark Tank has invested more than $100,000 and helped catalyze more than 50 social businesses addressing issues in the community. Spark Tank is the Valley’s only social enterprise pitch fest, boasting a start-up success rate double the national average. 

In addition to providing a product or service at a profit as conventional businesses do, social enterprises must have a strategic social impact goal to serve people/community that can be measured and managed and a plan to operate in an environmentally responsible manner.

The CCT connects the strengths of FPU with the resources of the region to transform cities, supporting entrepreneurial creativity, spiritual freedom, economic vitality and justice, environmental integrity, cross-cultural/social collaboration and political health in the Central Valley. 

Contestants were:

Valley Adobe LLC

Miguel Arambula, founder

Valley Adobe is the only facility in California providing compressed, stabilized adobe with high compressive strength and water resistance to meet building code needs and provide an attractive, high-performance, low-carbon masonry alternative.


Melvin Velasquez, MBA, CEO and co-founder

PCA Now is a web app that connects disabled individuals, especially those with physical challenges, who require assistance to connect with personal care assistants and drivers.

Eden Café 

Myriam Thevenet, co-founder

Eden Café seeks to provide a safe place for young people to experience professional workshops and mentorship programs while offering an authentic French menu. The enterprise will also hire people who need a second chance in life.


Ehsan Afkhami, CEO and co-founder/Stepanie Moreno, COO and co-founder

The-A-Sign is an online marketplace connecting underemployed individuals possessing valuable life skills and experiences with clients seeking to learn, be guided through activities or be entertained. 

Community Chest

Jordan Greynolds, founder

Community Chest provides equitable access to quality hygiene products and clothing through a store where customers can get what they need and give what they’re able to build community that reflects the Kingdom of God.

Carlos Huerta, CCT executive director, and Bryan Feil, associate director, hosted the event. Social entrepreneurs presented their plans to a panel of community judges:

  • Mendy Laval has served as president of Claude Laval Corporation (LAKOS). She also initiated the Pay it Forward Luncheon Series at Fresno State University and has been a trustee at Valley Childrens Hospital. 
  • Trevor Thomas-Uribe is an early-stage venture investor with an MBA from the Darden School of Business and an M.Eng. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Stephanie German is the founder of German Business Consulting, advising founders and CEOs. She is also a speaker, author and adjunct professor at FPU.
  • Jerin Kliewer is COO at Kliewer Farms LLC. He has also founded an ISP, managed farms and real estate and chaired the Kiwi Administrator Committee. 
  • Anthony “AP” Amour co-founded Neighborhood Industries in Fresno in 2008, where he serves as CEO.

Sponsors included Beneficial State Bank, Educational Employees Credit Union (EECU), The Lilly Foundation and the Tiechert Foundation. More than a dozen vendors, including Spark Tank sponsors and past winners, lined the walls with display tables showing their products and services.


PHOTO: Winners of the 2024 Spark Tank along with judges and CCT leaders. (FPU photo by Carolina Mueller)


Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations