Operation HOPE’s One Million Black Business Initiative Hosts Inaugural Pitch Competition at 8th Annual HOPE Global Forums in Atlanta


Nation’s largest non-profit dedicated to financial literacy partners with 25madison Venture Studio and Shopify to support Black Businesses

More than $100,000 committed toward investing in innovative Black entrepreneurs

ATLANTA (November 10, 2021) – Operation HOPE’s 8th Annual HOPE Global Forums (HGF) kicked off with its One Million Black Businesses Initiative (1MBB) Pitch Competition, hosted by Operation HOPE & Shopify, along with 25madison Venture Studio. Held at Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency, this is the first of 1MBB’s ongoing pitch series to create, scale, and grow new Black businesses across the US. All in, participants received commitments toward more than $100,000 in funding, including surprise matching pledges and challenge grants from HOPE Ventures and Ambassador Andrew Young, among others. Each finalist will benefit from access to 1MBBs ongoing coaching, technology and support as they continue to innovate new markets. 

During the competition, entrepreneurs pitched to a panel of judges for a chance to win a $10,000 cash prize or be a Shopify Green Bag Winner, which includes the development of a professional e-commerce site designed by Shopify Plus Partner Parkfield Commerce. In addition to John Hope Bryant, Operation HOPE Chairman, Founder, and CEO, the panel of judges included Sara Raffa, Director of Business Development at 25madison, Reggie Love, Senior Advisor at Apollo Global Management, Pinky Cole, Founder and Owner of Slutty Vegan, and Jayson Brown, Senior Lead of Merchant Success at Shopify. A video recap can be found here.

Following a competitive pre-qualifying process with more than 100 submissions, the three inaugural 1MBB pitch finalists were:

  • Megan Graham, owner of Ries, won the cash prize of $10,000. Ries is a sustainable beauty brand redefining how people correlate beauty and travel. The company is committed to reducing plastic waste through its launch of travel-size toiletry containers that are reusable, leakproof, washable and made from FDA-approved, earth-kind materials. Ries has reengineered the functionality of travel bottles, creating reusable and refillable solutions that are also dishwasher safe and TSA-friendly. 
  • Oluwakolapo Smith, owner of All I Do Is Cook, was the Shopify Green Bag Winner. The start-up company delivers frozen ready-to-eat African meals, condiments, pastries, and specialty beverages to customers’ doorsteps all over the US. To address the problem of not having Nigerian/African food nearby, All I Do Is Cook adopted a tech-enabled omnichannel distribution method (DTC + retail stores) to give the consumer more convenience, accessibility, and a better range of options for African flavors.
  • Temeka Norris, owner of Capable Clothing, received potential funding through a matching program during the event. As a registered nurse, Norris wanted to assist caregivers with lifting and turning patients. Inspired by the mission of Capable Clothing, various investment partners pulled together to help Norris reach her capital goal of $250,000, including a $50,000 matching grant investment from HOPE Ventures as well as $20,000 commitment from Pinky Cole and Slutty Vegan, among others.

“Operation HOPE’s 1MBB pitch competition showed us what the bright future of Black businesses looks like. This is the perfect case study for what they can do for this country – especially when we give them the support needed to be true disruptors,” said John Hope Bryant, Operation HOPE Chairman, Founder, and CEO. “These Black business owners are looking to change the world. Through 1MBB, we plan to walk with them every step of the way.” 

Today, only 9.5 percent of businesses in the US are Black-owned. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of working Black business owners has fallen more than 40 percent – a far deeper drop than other racial groups. For more information about 1MBB, please visit:


About Operation HOPE, Inc.

Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been moving America from civil rights to “silver rights” with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for the underserved—disrupting poverty for millions of low and moderate-income youth and adults across the nation. Through its community uplift model, HOPE Inside, which received the 2016 Innovator of the Year recognition by American Banker magazine, Operation HOPE has served more than 4 million individuals and directed more than $3.2 billion in economic activity into disenfranchised communities—turning check-cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, minimum wage workers into living wage consumers, and uncertain disaster victims into financially empowered disaster survivors. For more information: Follow the HOPE conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

About 1MBB

Launched in October 2020 with founding partner Shopify, 1MBB aims to remove traditional hurdles to Black entrepreneurship and encourage more aspiring Black business owners to start – and scale – by providing them with the tools, resources, and education needed to succeed. To level the playing field, 1MBB will focus on critical tools for business growth such as technology and resources, educational programs, and the opportunity to access capital. Through this program, Black business owners can sign up for Operation HOPE’s award-winning model of community uplift, financial literacy and education, with access to tailored tools and resources upon graduation. To learn more about 1MBB, visit

Media Contact:

Lalohni Campbell, Operation HOPE


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