Meda now accepting applications for Million Dollar Challenge

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Get your business pitches ready, the Meda Million Dollar Challenge for Minority Entrepreneurs is back! The Metropolitan Economic Development Association’s (Meda) Shark Tank-style pitch competition returns for its second year to award $1 million in funding to businesses of color across the country.

The Million Dollar Challenge is the largest minority-exclusive entrepreneurial pitch competition in the country. Last year, Meda, which provides business consulting, marketing and capital for minority business owners, awarded nearly $1.5 million in financing to nine small businesses from around the country, including Minnesota’s own HabitAware, Vemos, Cytilife, Mobility 4 All, LegacyArmour and Virtue Analytics Inc.

“Meda’s Million Dollar Challenge brings so much to the table for entrepreneurs of color: highlighting their innovation and creativity, attracting more equity and capital investments, and accelerating business growth,” said Gary Cunningham, outgoing president and CEO of Meda, in a recent statement.

“The impact of uplifting minority entrepreneurs goes far beyond the bounds of the individual and is a proven strategy for creating jobs and boosting economic development,” he said.

The competition is about more than just giving away money, it’s helping level the playing field for businesses of color. While Minnesota’s minority-owned businesses grew by 58 percent from 2007 to 2012, they are getting the fewest dollars. A 2017 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that from 1990-2016, minority entrepreneurs only represented about 20 percent of entrepreneurs funded by venture capital. In addition, a 2017 report by the Minority Business Development Agency shows that loan denial rates were three times higher for minority firms with gross receipts under $500,000 and about twice as high for minority firms with greater revenues.

“Because the market isn’t working well for people of color, we need to create mechanisms so that we can get the market to actually invest in businesses of color,” Cunningham told the MSR after last year’s competition.

“Discrimination in the lending market is pretty widespread,” said Cunningham. “We’re giving a leg up to help them equalize the playing field so that they can actually play and get their loan approved,” he said. “Once you have a relationship…, the money is green. There isn’t ‘Black’ money — it’s green and that’s what everybody is in this for.”

All for-profit minority-owned businesses in the U.S.are encouraged to apply. The application process is open now through June 13, 2019. The competition includes a speed-pitching event, Meda’s Boot Camp for Successful Pitches, and a final live pitch and awards ceremony. Semifinals will take place in July and the Final pitch event will coincide with Twin Cities Startup Week in October.

To apply or for more info, visit

—Information provided by Meda.