KeyBank building

Key4Women and SCORE Cleveland Sponsor Women-Owned Business Pitch Contest

Originally published at KeyBank ranked No. 18 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.


KeyBank’s Key4Women program and SCORE Cleveland are sponsoring a business pitch contest for women-owned businesses located in Northeast Ohio. The competition will take place Oct. 4, 2022 from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at Cuyahoga County Community College. Two-track opportunities for start-ups and existing businesses will be offered, with cash awards totaling $22,000. The grand prize winner will earn $10,000.

To be eligible, businesses must be 51% owned, controlled, operated and managed by a woman or women. They must also be headquartered in Ashtabula, Carroll, Cuyahoga, Erie, Geauga, Harrison, Holmes, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas or Wayne counties. The application deadline is July 31, 2022.

“We are excited to once again work with Key4Women on this year’s pitch contest. Last year’s contestants clearly demonstrated the vision, ingenuity and grit to one day successfully compete in and contribute to Northeast Ohio’s growing economy,” said Sharon Rose, Co-Chair of Cleveland Score. “Our volunteers look forward to helping contestants submit applications as well as fine-tune their ‘pitch.’ Additionally, we are available to provide free comprehensive business expertise and mentoring to all applicants once the contest concludes. In our mission to foster small vibrant business communities, we serve all entrepreneurs, whether a start-up or growing business seeking additional expert support.”

Ten finalists will be selected by representatives from SCORE. The finalists will then present a 4-minute pitch and field questions for 6 minutes.

Final awards will be chosen by a panel of five judges, which will include 3 local women business owners and two KeyBank bankers. Criteria used to determine winners include the quality of the presentation, clarity of business vision and mission, economic impact of the idea and the soundness of value proposition.

SCORE mentoring is available on an as-needed basis to advise applicants on submission and presentation requirements. Mentoring is also available post-contest to all applicants.

“Key4Women is on a mission to advocate, connect and empower. We are happy to once again sponsor this pitch competition that provides women business owners and entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio an opportunity to network, build their brand and grow their business,” said Rachael Sampson, Chair, Key4Women. “SCORE is a great organization to work with in this endeavor, and through this pitch contest we look forward to offering two critical supports women-owned businesses often struggle to find or ask for: mentorship and capital.”

Last year, Ashley Starr, owner of Roughin’ It RV & Cycle, won the grand prize of $10,000, which went toward helping bring a new facility online, revitalizing an existing building in Lake County Ohio.

For Key4Women/SCORE Pitch Contest rules and specifics, including eligibility, submission requirements and the application, visit

Latest News

A Look at the Current State of Women’s Diversity in Corporate America

DEI professionals and women’s rights advocates alike have been pressing for greater equity, representation and inclusion for female workers in America’s boardrooms for decades. While strides have been made in the 170 years since the dawn of women’s suffrage and the 1848 Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, which marked the…

Creating Pay Equity and Equal Treatment for Employees

Even though the disparity in pay has been a high-profile issue for decades, it remains a concern for businesses across every industry. HR professionals and business leaders continue to search for ways to create pay equity between genders and those of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Some may face mandates…

5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: August 11

As the saying goes, the news never stops — but there’s a lot of it out there, and all of it doesn’t always pertain to our readers. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories that matter most to our diversity focused audience. 1. Eli Lilly Plans…

The Importance of Business-Community Partnerships

Businesses increasingly play a key role in building stronger communities. It’s something that people in the past few years have come to expect. It’s created not only a way to improve local communities, but also boost an organization’s employee morale, loyalty and brand reputation. One of the main ways businesses…

CDO Series: Humana’s Carolyn Tandy

Following the murder of George Floyd, the role of Chief Diversity Officers has become more important as companies started to be more intentional with their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which has made the last few years tumultuous for many CDOs. In the first interview of a series of articles…