Competition gives entrepreneurs chance to launch ideas to improve Cleveland

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Entrepreneurs who want to move Cleveland and the region forward are getting the chance this week to win seed money for their ideas.

The Accelerate 2017- Citizens Make Change competition takes center stage Wednesday night at the Global Center for Heath Innovation in Cleveland. The public is invited and tickets are still on sale.

"It's a civic Shark Tank," said Joe DiRocco, president of Citizens Bank-Ohio. "It's all about ideas to make our community better. This is where we live. This is where we work. This is our home."

In all, 25 people are trying to convince judges and an audience of hundreds that their concept deserves financial and logistical backing from area businesses, organizations and individuals. Many of those community power-players will be at the event.

The 5 competition categories are:

  • Community Change
  • Economic & Workplace Development
  • Educating for Tomorrow
  • Quality of Life
  • Transformative  Arts & Culture

A panel of judges will pick one winner from each category. The audience will then choose the overall winner. First-place prize is $5,000. Each runner-up will receive $2,000.

DiRocco is yet again blown away by this year's presenters. He mentioned Constantine Madias and his idea which centers around educational advancement of disabled students. Another presenter is Linda Thomas Jones who wants to develop an African drumming program pairing girls estranged from their families with elders in the community.

"I think the energy and the inspiration people bring are always consistent," DiRocco said.

Ben Colas, a teacher at Alfred A. Benesch School, was crowned the overall winner of the Accelerate 2016 competition. He was able to use the $5,000 seed money to launch KinderKits. His mission was to improve kindergarten readiness. Last year 700 kits were given to children across Cleveland. Colas said there were measurable results and this year he plans to distribute 7,000 KinderKits.

His advice for this year's presenters is to have fun.

"One of the awesome things about Accelerate was the chance to meet great people who were super helpful [and] super connected," Colas said.

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