Social entrepreneur Michelle Corson of Dallas, Texas took home the $75,000 first prize for On the Road Lending, a company which finances fuel-efficient and reliable cars, under warranty, for lower-skilled workers with weak credit at the wrap of BBVA Compass second annual social entrepreneur program BBVA Momentum.
BBVA Momentum, a program from Madrid-based global financial service company BBVA, has been operating since 2011 in countries around the world, but only since last year in the U.S. through the bank’s subsidiary BBVA Compass. The goal of the program is to help social entrepreneurs achieve scale and learn ways to further enhance their operations. After its U.S. success in 2017, the bank expanded it to encompass interested participants from across its seven-state footprint, ending up with a field of 16.
On Wednesday, the five-month program wrapped up with five finalists - On the Road Lending (Dallas), 400 Voices (Houston), Wanderstay Hotels (Houston), Skratch (Dallas) and Pathlight HOME (Orlando, Fla.) - giving a 20-minute pitch on their business’ growth plan in front of a panel of judges at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin. After deliberations, the judges awarded Corson the first place prize of $75,000; Scott Bennett’s Skratch second place with $35,000; and Pathlight HOME’s Helaine Blum received $15,000. Winners were also treated to a finale surprise announcement that they were invited to attend the BBVA Momentum global summit in Madrid, Spain in the Spring of 2019 with winners from other countries.
Ocañas: They embodied the spirit of BBVA Momentum and leveraged the training and mentorship they received to propel the business into the next stage of growth and impact.
“We had such a strong crop of entrepreneurs but On the Road Lending really stood out,” said BBVA Compass Director of Corporate Responsibility & Reputation Reymundo Ocañas. “They embodied the spirit of BBVA Momentum and leveraged the training and mentorship they received to propel the business into the next stage of growth and impact.”
Ocañas served as one of the judges for the final pitch competition, along with Erin Bream, head of New Venture Creation at BBVA; Kevin Dasch, a partner at Social Starts; Kurt Faulhaber, a partner at Stafford Capital Partners; and Jose "Pepe" Olalla, head of Business Development at BBVA Compass.
About the winners
On the Road Lending, Michelle Corson (Dallas): Finances fuel-efficient and reliable cars, under warranty, for lower-skilled workers with weak credit. Workers are able to access the best job they can take, no matter how far, improving their economic mobility and the region’s air quality all at once.
Skratch, Scott David Bennett (Dallas): A mobile platform that connects teens with individuals, organizations, and businesses in their neighborhood to accomplish task-based work.
Pathlight HOME, Helaine Blum (Orlando, Fla.): Uses a housing-first model by acquiring former hotel properties and structuring innovative financing models to create over 500 units for disabled individuals who are at-risk for chronic homelessness.
The 2018 BBVA Momentum Field in the U.S.
4.0 GPA, Henry Keculah (Houston): The organization’s curriculum prepares students for college and certification programs, and provides their parents with the tools to assist their child with the college admissions process.
400 Voices, Gabriel Garcia (Houston): Creates a culture of education within the low-income Hispanic population to help them graduate from high school and enroll in a two-year community college or technical school, with the potential to transfer to a four-year university.
Brave Hoods, Allison Yacht (Longmont, Colo.): Builds self-esteem in children battling cancer by providing them with hoodies. For each hoodie sold, one is donated to a child fighting cancer and their siblings.
College Prep U, Jamarius Johnson (Trussville, Ala.): A coaching program that helps students understand what careers might be best based on their personalities, allows them to virtually tour a campus and provides resources for scholarships and to understand student loans.
DuBois Institute, Michael Jackson (Dothan, Ala.): A socially-driven food enterprise serving low-income communities by providing garden-based learning in a marketplace that promotes community wellness.
Edmundite Missions Enterprises, Joseph O’Quinn (Selma, Ala.): Operates a kitchen incubator to create unique southern foods that provide jobs, skills and leadership to bring individuals out of poverty. The profits from sales of food products are reinvested in the organization’s charitable works.
Elysii, Shelly Silverstein (Los Angeles): Allows local communities to create a suite of rewards, such as coupons or tokens, to connect cities, businesses, residents and others to support a specific goal, such as raising funds for nonprofits.
GirlSpring, Kristen Greenwood (Birmingham, Ala.): Empowers girls by giving them access to a digital platform that allows them to engage and learn from each other without physical barriers. This provides access to accurate, vetted information on a variety of “tough topics.” They also offer offline programs that support girls locally with messages of empowerment and access to inspiring female role models and mentors.
Loqules, Jai Al Attas (Los Angeles): Hires disadvantaged individuals from nonprofit partners, trains them, pays them to work at their curated experiences and opens a network for them to find jobs, internships or mentorship in the creative industries.
Mother Kombucha, Tonya Donati (St. Petersburg, Fla.): Creates organic beverages which are naturally low in sugar and provide healthy amino acids, enzymes, B vitamins and probiotics.
Purple Impression, Drakshan Khan (Dublin, Calif.): Uses the power of meaningful fashion to lift women in Pakistan out of poverty by providing employment and fair wages to disadvantaged women. Through the fusion of artisan skills, creative modern design and eco fabrics, they are able to provide sustainable alternatives to fast fashion.
The Tiny Heights, Jennifer Drew (Houston): Provides an affordable housing solution that utilizes community and tiny homes that are more sustainable, eco-friendly and tech-enabled, to produce more first time homebuyers.
Wanderstay Hotels, Deidre Mathis (Houston): Operates a hostel for millennial travelers designed intentionally to connect people of all races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations to break down barriers and promote inclusivity.
BBVA Momentum 2019
BBVA Compass Manager of Social Impact Tony Moraga, the U.S. program manager for BBVA Momentum, said the goal is to grow the 2019 cohort.
Moraga: It’s essential for us to support as many viable enterprises as we can to increase their impact and shine a brighter spotlight on the social enterprise movement.
"The implications of this program go well beyond the winning companies as this program helps fuel local economies while simultaneously addressing key issues and barriers that limit progress for communities,” he said. "It’s essential for us to support as many viable enterprises as we can to increase their impact and shine a brighter spotlight on the social enterprise movement."
The bank's seven-state footprint includes California, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Alabama and Florida. Social entrepreneurs based in those states who are interested in participating should monitor www.bbva.com for upcoming details on the 2019 program.