CEG Names Pitch Your Pivot Winners: Head Heart Hands Consulting Takes $5,000 Grand Prize
The grand prize winner of the Center for Economic Growth’s Pitch Your Pivot Competition is an education and equity consulting firm that expanded its prospective client base during the pandemic by evolving into a Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (WIDE) strategy service provider for nonprofits and corporations. The startup has already been tapped by a growing number of legal and technology companies, including CommerceHub in Albany.
The Pitch Your Pivot competition was supported by the KeyBank Business Boost & Build Program, which is designed to stimulate economic growth by fostering small business success. CEG’s partners for the event included Pursuit and UAlbany’s Small Enterprise Economic Development.
During a Facebook Live event on Dec. 9, CEG announced that a panel of judges had selected Head Heart Hands Consulting (HHH) in Latham to receive the $5,000 grand prize for the way it pivoted during the pandemic, which abruptly suspended business with its main clientele: schools. Christina Farinacci-Roberts had founded HHH to contribute to and fight for educational equality. The Coronavirus’s impacts on HHH had prompted her to create a joint venture with Anniedi Essien, her best friend since second grade and also a Capital Region native. Essien had likewise seen COVID-19 adversely impact business at her Charlotte-based wellness startup, Idem Spark, which had launched in January of 2020.
From the alliance of HHH and Idem Spark emerged a joint venture called WIDE Dynamic Dialogues. In less than six months of pivoting, Farinacci-Roberts and Essien secured contracts with an e-commerce tech giant, a global legal services company and interest from a financial services company, a government agency and local chambers of commerce. They have developed and sold a signature workshop fostering a culture of belonging and inclusivity. They are also seeking 21 companies to join them in 2021 as they roll out a 21 Day Harmony Journey, which is an anti-burnout campaign that boosts team building and engagement to achieve greater work life harmony – even for a virtual and remote workforce. WIDE Dynamic Dialogue’s next phase of development is launching their signature women leadership program. So far, the joint venture has more than quadrupled its revenue since its first contract by being responsive to the pandemic’s unique challenges and reimagining the future of work.
Farinacci-Roberts grew up in South Colonie and graduated with Essien from Colonie Central High School in 1998. Farinacci-Roberts is the daughter of a Korean immigrant and Italian-American veteran and was the first in her family to graduate college. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University at Albany in 2002 and master of education from Pace University in 2005, she taught in South Korea for one year and then worked as a teacher and principal in New York City for eight years. She returned to the Capital Region in 2012, leading schools in Troy and Albany. In 2017, she founded HHH, in part, for more autonomy to care for her then 2-year-old son and 77-year-old mother who had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
With the Pitch Your Pivot prize money, Farinacci-Roberts plans to increase brand awareness and improve WIDE Dynamic Dialogue’s website, as well as secure MWBE certification. She is also a recent graduate of the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Tech Valley cohort (2020) and was a part of Ignite U’s MWBE Accelerator program in spring of 2019.
“We are partnering with organizations to increase profitability and impact by centering employee wellbeing at the heart of business to protect number one asset: their people,” said Farinacci-Roberts.
Other Pitch Your Pivot Winners
2nd Place ($3,000): Tidy Tots Diapers, Albany
- Pivot: In addition to making cloth baby diapers, the company started producing level-4 isolation gowns.
- Outcome: The isolation gowns will be a preferred product by the New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID), which will market them to companies and organizations statewide. That will enable Tidy Tots to develop a track record and better compete for business with companies and hospitals in the remaining 49 states.
3rd Place ($2,000): Fretto Industrial Cleaning, Troy
- Pivot: Launched a COVID-19 Disinfection Division that offers affordable and budgeted deep cleaning, disinfection and remediation for local companies. Also hired additional sales and project management staff to focus on bidding for post-construction cleaning services.
- Outcome: Created a sales channel that brings an additional 25% and more in revenue to recurring revenue contracts.
4th Place ($1,000): DNA Bodyworx, Cohoes
- Pivot: Owner Analusette Shaello went from running in-person personal training sessions and boot camps to hosting virtual training sessions over Zoom and Google Meet. He also became a certified life coach during the pandemic, offering both virtual training sessions and a virtual nutrition program that includes a nutritional report, weekly support and check-ins and a life coaching session.
- Outcome: Resulted in DNA BodyWorx working with women throughout New York State & Alabama.
5th Place ($1,000): Kema’s Kreation, Albany
- Pivot: Went from being a seamstress and bag maker to also creating customized masks.
- Outcome: Sold thousands of masks nationwide utilizing her website and social media.
The Pitch Your Pivot event represents just one of the many ways CEG has been working to support the growing number of new businesses in the Capital Region. As a regional technology center under the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, CEG’s Business Growth Solutions (BGS) unit offers a menu of support services for entrepreneurs. These include improving access to facilities, prototyping support with 3D printer services, and identifying potential investors, mentors, and resources. BGS also provides opportunities for startups to showcase business ideas through programs such as VentureB and the New York State High School Business Model Competition. CEG is supporting the formation and growth of local minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) and disadvantaged small businesses through KeyBank Business Boost & Build (KBBB). The Capital Region Chamber, of which CEG is an affiliate, also provides support services for entrepreneurs, such as loan programs, entrepreneur boot camps and an MWBE program.
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