Startups on the Blocks, an initiative of the Kukua Institute aims to build a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem for historically marginalized business leaders

PENSACOLA, FL., MAY 23, 2022 – Innisfree Hotels is sponsoring Startups on the Blocks, an entrepreneurial support program and pitch competition that empowers founders of color in Northwest Florida. 

The competition, which will take place on June 23, invites Northwest Florida’s African American and Latin founders to cultivate their ideas through mentorship and training. In doing so, Startups on the Blocks hopes to both broaden and diversify the area’s rapidly growing startup ecosystem. 

Innisfree, which has partnered with the Kukua Institute on the Startups on the Blocks pitch competition twice before, will retain one seat on the judge’s panel as well as award $5,000 in cash prizes.

“At Innisfree, we believe that establishing a foothold in the market and keeping inclusive company practices should be harmonious,” said Innisfree CEO Ted Ent. “Entrepreneurial-based economic development is a perfect way to empower people of color from Pensacola to Panama City. We are excited to continue to demonstrate our commitment to empowering our African American and Latino neighbors through this sponsorship.”

Five out of ten finalists will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $2000. Additionally, all ten finalists will be invited to participate in Startups on the Blocks programs which include mentoring, startup playbooks, startup tools, weekly training, weekly networking, and weekly opportunities newsletter. In addition to the $5K from Innisfree, in-kind prizes will be awarded by the Pensacola Chamber, the Gulf Coast Minority Chamber,, Real Women Radio, and the Kukua Institute and its partners.

“Innisfree is a great example of how a company can practice ethical responsibility and inclusivity while maintaining market value,”  said Lloyd Reshard, Board Chairman of the Kukua Institute. “This sponsorship demonstrates Innisfree’s commitment to inclusive economic development in Northwest Florida.”

Startups on the Blocks Founders Pitch Competition invites African American and Latino residents of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Homes, Washington, Jackson, and Bay counties to present both new business ideas as well as existing startups. 

Past pitch competition winners include Troy Watts’ Dribbles the All Knowing Cat, a digital program designed to help educators and students develop STEAM-based skills; Elijah Rigsby, whose NFT development company Icon Tradeables specializes in the creation of digital art; as well as Monica White’s Magenta Root Scalp Care and Greg Lashley’s Mobility Network Infrastructure.
Applicants must be 18 years of age and citizens of the United States, Applications will remain open until June 6, 2022 at 11:59 PM. Ten finalists will pitch on June 23, 2022. For more information, visit