The “Aroma of Social Impact” was strong at the sixth annual Spark Tank Pitch Fest as social enterprises encouraging personal health, financial literacy and introducing young people to careers in the marketing fields won the top prizes.

The pitch fest took place from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Thursday, November 15, 2018, at a Lanna Coffee Company, 617 Broadway, Fresno, and was organized by the Fresno Pacific University Center for Community Transformation. Five social enterprises pitched to a panel of judges and the three prize winners were:

Goodie Gains (first—$4,000)

A nutritional vegan cookie-based product tied to the dissemination of health education, exercise and diet tips to help with specific dietary needs. The goal is to pair a good-tasting, healthy product with additional services, especially for those with medical conditions.

LearnMoney App (second—$3,000)

A free personal finance education app built to address the lack of financial education in the United States that produces negative effects on individuals, families and communities that affect physical, emotional and mental health. The mission is to create healthier communities through free financial education.

Hack the Brand (third—$2,000)

Introducing low-income youth of color to careers in marketing and branding, tech and entrepreneurship by hiring and training them to create marketing campaigns, brand activations and websites for local small businesses that lack resources to afford full-priced branding and marketing services.

Two other social enterprises made pitches, and each were awarded $1,500:

Missio Dei Café

A café/coworking space in Reedley focused on hiring teen moms participating in programs through Community Youth Ministries. The café is connected to Redeemers Church.

Royal Wear & Wedding Boutique

A second-hand wedding and formalwear boutique with a mission to provide work experience to victims of human-trafficking.

The theme, “The Aroma of Social Impact,” was a nod to hosts Lanna Coffee. Through cash prizes and educational programs--all winners will attend the CCT Social Enterprise Academy, the only one of its kind in the Valley--Spark Tank encourages social enterprise, which uses the principles of business to get beyond charity and create products and services that address specific community problems while employing people who have challenges to traditional employment. Spark Tank has helped catalyze 38 social enterprises throughout the Central Valley, with a success rate double the national average, which have hired 122 people. Lanna Coffee is a local company that lives that spirit by working with growers in Thailand who were helped to transition from growing opium to coffee.

Leaders from two of Spark Tank’s successes returned to report on their progress. Tagua Fair Trade is a gift-shop that features products made by international artisans and Thrift on Blackstone is a thrift store operated by international Christian relief organization Mennonite Central Committee that hires people with barriers to employment.

This year’s judges were Amber Balakian, instructor of business, Fresno City College; Andrew Shinn, instructor of business, Fresno Pacific University; Samer Sarofim, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing and logistics, California State University, Fresno; Jake Soberal, CEO and co-founder, Bitwise Industries; Bryan Feil, CEO, Lanna Coffee; and Anthony “AP” Armour, executive director, Neighborhood Industries.

Sponsors were Beneficial State Bank, Bitwise Industries, Every Neighborhood Partnership, Lanna Coffee and Wells Fargo.

Listen to a report by KVPR…

PHOTO: From left, Sabrina Kelly, community relations manager, Wells Fargo; Randy White, executive director, Center for Community Transformation; Gloria Leal, Goodie Gains; Carlos Huerta, CCT program director for community initiatives. (Photo provided by CCT)




Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations