Linda Spradley Dunn is the CEO and founder of Odyssey Media. (Odyssey Media)

(NNPA) – In an effort to increase opportunities for Black women entrepreneurs, Odyssey Media launched “Keys to Success: Access to Capital,” a $25,000 business pitch competition and digital workshop series for women of color who own and operate small businesses. The Coca-Cola Company’s “5by20 Initiative” supported Odyssey Media in the launch of the competition and workshop series.

The digital workshop series, which is available until May 5, features three different 45-minute segments that walk participants through applications for traditional loans, alternative financing, strengthening their financial image, and revitalizing company brands. Participants must view the entire digital workshop series and complete the application process by May 5 at 10 p.m. EST to be eligible for the $25,000 grand prize.

A press official with Odyssey Media, a Black-owned marketing and communications company, said that the business pitch competition, is only open to businesses that are certified minority- and women-owned, or are in the process of getting these certifications, and have been established at least three years.

Linda Spradley Dunn, the CEO and founder of Odyssey Media, said that when it comes to accessing capital for minority female business owners, race and gender do play a big role.

“However, I tell female entrepreneurs, all the time, not to beat themselves up about it; understand it and move on,” said Dunn. “Once you fully understand the way capital and funding works, it then becomes easier to access it and that’s what ‘Keys to Success’ is all about: providing a platform to solve the number one issue facing women minority business owners—access to capital.”

In the 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, the number of Black female-owned businesses increased from one in six in 1997, to one in three in 2015, making them the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States.

While this trend proves to be promising, only 14 out of the 30 percent of women-owned businesses in the U.S. are run by minority women.

The Odyssey Network Business Retreat, scheduled for May 22-May 26 at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, located off the northeast coast of Florida, is the finale event for the program. The retreat will feature keynote addresses from top-level businesswomen of color, panel discussions and wellness activities, according to a press official with Odyssey Media. The event is open to the finalists of the business competition.

Cheryl McCants, the Keys to Success program manager, said that the annual Odyssey Network Business Retreat will give participants the opportunity to receive on-site coaching and to rehearse their pitches in front of body language specialists. McCants added that the experience is a “fabulous opportunity” for businesses at any stage.

DeShawn F. Bullard, the president and CEO of NouriTress Hair Products, LLC and a Keys to Success participant, talked about the opportunity to take part in the workshops and the pitch competition.

“For me, it’s all about growth,” Bullard said. “In order to access capital, you really have to have your financial books in order and a lot of starter companies don’t. As a small business owner, I could not pass up the opportunity to gain extra revenue and additional knowledge for my company.”

To register for the Keys to Success program, visit
By Lauren Poteat
NNPA Newswire Contributor


The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), known as the Black Press of America, is the federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers in the United States.