Collaboration wins top prize at Dearborn Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition

It was the power of collaboration that took home the top prize at this year’s Dearborn Entrepreneur Pitch Competition.

Following three preliminary rounds of pitch events that began in June of this year, the final Dearborn Entrepreneur Pitch Competition was held Wednesday, Nov. 14, on the campus of Henry Ford College.

Gathered in the room were the three finalists, waiting their turn in front of a panel of Dearborn city officials, business leaders, and community stakeholders.

Winning the grand prize for this year’s Dearborn Entrepreneur Pitch Competition were the two established Dearborn business owners Kristen Pfeifer, of loose leaf tea company Teatroiter, and Tamoré Ross, of home décor and gift boutique Things We Love.

Pfeifer and Ross are combining their businesses to form SHE Made Collective. It’s there where Pfeifer will sell her teas over a social tea bar while Ross sells her home décor, fashion, and accessories products in the retail section of the space.

Haroon Iftikhar pitched his social meet-up app Einjaa. Lola Charles pitched her children’s publishing company Alexrai. But it was the unique combination of a tea pub-retail boutique that won the judges’ favor.

“We are focused on that millennial appeal as well as innovative retail,” says Christina Sheppard-Decius, Executive Director of the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority.

“We know that’s coming from entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs that are doing something a little different--thinking outside the box--we want to welcome that in because that is really the audience that we are trying to build here to grow our downtowns.”

For the top prize, SHE Made Collective has been promised a space in Ford Motor Company’s Wagner Place development in west downtown Dearborn. They also receive business consulting and design services and pre-opening and opening coaching from marketing and design firm GRIND Creative, an estimated $10,000 cash value.

Runners-up Iftikhar and Charles will receive their own business support services, as well.

We asked GRIND’s Jen Romanowski about their generous prize. She says, “We believe in Dearborn and we believe that every business needs help and that’s what we’re here to do, to help them hit the ground running, to put their best foot forward, and be there for them, potentially in the future as a lifelong partner, to help them grow.”

Grand prize: SHE Made Collective

Owners: Kristen Pfeifer, 44, Dearborn; Tamoré Ross, 32, Dearborn Heights Kristen Pfeifer, Tamoré Ross (L to R). Photo by Mike Galbraith.

Why are you participating in the pitch competition?

Ross: I currently own a business in Dearborn called Things We Love. It’s a home décor gift shop. I’ve been in business about two and a half years. My current lease is coming to an end and I’m ready for the next opportunity to grow forward.

Pfeifer: I own the Teatroiter loose leaf tea company with a focus and a mission to decrease diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases in our hometown of Dearborn and its surrounding cities. And we have combined our businesses together to open up a new and unique experience for the community, hopefully on Michigan Avenue with a retail storefront.

What is your product/service?

Ross: We combined a tea café, tea pub, and retail store.

Pfeifer: We’re combining [our businesses] together to offer the community a different kind of feel. A lot of places are coffee and tea shops but they offer it in a different environment where you go in, you plug in, you don’t really talk to anyone--you’re kind of kept to yourself.

With the development happening in our city, which is expanding so rapidly right now, people want more of a community feel. They want to feel like they belong again and not look at each other like strangers. So, we’re offering that nice pub feel. Come in and relax, have something that’s actually good for you--and while you’re shopping. We can build a rapport with our customers so that they come back to shop over and over again, and not just for themselves but for families and gifts and things like that. And then they’ll also be in a social environment so they can say hi to each other or make new friends along the way.

Runner-up: Alexrai, Inc.

Lola Charles. Photo by Mike Galbraith.Owner: Lola Charles, 56, Dearborn

Why are you participating in the pitch competition?

It’s a passion. I am driven, and I am fulfilling my life’s mission, and that is working with children.

What is your product/service?

Books. I’m a writer. I have produced a product: children’s books. I started a series, and this will be my third book, to date, part of the Boopey series. I sell the books, as well as memorabilia. Prints. I have a doll that’s patterned after Boopey, the character from the book. And I’d like to do some children’s entertainment. Bring in other entertainers and vendors who cater to children and entertain them through storytelling, the art of storytelling. [Bring in] artifacts of all sorts that cater to children. Mostly young children. And then children of all ages, get ‘em in there. It’s more than a bookstore.

Runner-up: EinjaaHaroon Iftikhar. Photo by Mike Galbraith.

Owner: Haroon Iftikhar, 21, Belleville

Why are you participating in the pitch competition?

I needed a platform to bring Einjaa to the public. I’ve been working on it, personally, for a while now, and I thought that this was an opportunity to bring it forward to the public and make it known.

What is your product/service?

Einjaa is a platform where we intend to make it easy for you to do anything you want, anywhere you want, anytime you want. Whether it’s intangible, tangible--you would never have to worry about going on Facebook groups and finding particular groups of people to do it with, or having to search the Internet for, “Where can I do this?” It’s just one place: At Einjaa.


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