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businesses making communities better

Introducing our IMPACT Pitch Judges and MC!

We are honored to have such an accomplished group of business leaders judge the IMPACT Pitch Live Competition this year, including winner of last year’s Best Startup Business, Coté Soerens, the Founder and CEO of Remitly, Matt Oppenheimer, and Michael Powell, returning judge and Senior Vice President at Harborstone Credit Union! From a 39 year legacy of helping local entrepreneurs turn their dreams into realities, to starting the tech giant Remitly, to immigrating to the U.S. and successfully opening a business, our panelists have an immense range of expertise and a serious dedication to “serving the underserved.” Business Impact NW is also incredibly excited to have Toyia Taylor, founder of the Seattle nonprofit We.APP emcee the event. Come to the event to meet these amazing people in person!

Matt Oppenheimer, Co-Founder & CEO, Remitly

Photo courtesy of Medium.

Matt Oppenheimer is the Co-founder & CEO of Remitly, the largest independent digital money transmitter in the USA, sending over $5 billion a year. Matt started the company 7 years ago after living in Kenya and seeing how difficult it was to send and receive money overseas. The company now has more than 700 employees worldwide and has raised more than $175m in capital.

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs and small business owners. My great great grandfather moved to Idaho during the goldrush and started the local mercantile store in Boise. Later he started a small food distribution company that my dad and uncle now run. I grew up seeing the impact of small business on my family and our community.

Starting my own business has given me visibility to communities who are underserved, and the ability to give back in a meaningful way.

Small businesses are the foundation of the economy and our communities. In my local community, it is exciting to see the creation of local jobs, the unique products and services offered, and influence small businesses have on our community identity.

I am honored to be serving as a judge for this year’s IMPACT Pitch competition. Being an entrepreneur and serving the underserved is a fundamental part of who I am. Supporting a likeminded group of individuals is exciting, and seeing the value that they are adding to their customers’ lives and communities where they live is truly inspiring.”

Michael Powell, Senior Vice President & Chief Lending Officer, Harborstone Credit Union

Michael Powell on the judge’s panel at the 2017 IMPACT Pitch.

“I grew up as a kid in Tacoma and many of my fondest memories are of the small business owners on “K” Street in the Hilltop area of town.  They were corner store owners where I bought my penny candy (I know I’m dating myself).  It’s where I got my haircut every two weeks.  It’s where we all hung out daily and bought ice cream from my friend’s dad at Patterson’s 23 Flavors.  Listening to and seeing these hard working women and men helped form my work ethic in life.  And in looking back over my 39 year career in financial services, it’s these childhood experiences that have informed my thoughts on my desire to be supportive of small businesses through my past involvement in Junior Achievement and as a trusted advisor and loan officer to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

I believe a positive and, by far, the largest impact small businesses have had on the communities they are located in has been the jobs that are created; many filled by individuals who also live in the surrounding neighborhoods where these businesses operate.  I firmly believe these two events improve the quality of life in these neighborhoods and the individuals living in them.  And I am fortunate to have witnessed this first hand through seeing one of my sons getting his first job with a local small business.  In the community in which I live, local entrepreneurs and merchants have filled the storefronts as retailers, restaurateurs, and service providers who are the embodiment of the spirit of the American Dream that everyone should have the right to an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.

What I’m most excited about for this year’s event is knowing the positive impact our decision as judges can have for the award winners and for the communities they operate in and serve.  Whether it’s providing that kick start for an Early Stage emerging business or providing that Established business with boost to the next level, we are impacting lives and communities in a positive manner!”

Coté Soerens, Founding Owner of Resistencia Coffee and IMPACT Pitch 2017 Best Startup Winner

Photo Courtesy of Morgen Schuler.

Coté is a Chilean immigrant and  social entrepreneur. She is the founding owner of Resistencia Coffee in South Park, a locally-owned and operated coffee shop, and was the winner of IMPACT Pitch 2017 for Best Startup.

“Starting organizations and small businesses has been a deeply transformative experience. I have learned a lot about how one’s own best and worst tendencies come out in our leadership and problem solving style, and every challenge has provided an opportunity for growth as a person. I have learned how to trust myself, how to trust the process, as well as how to rely in my
community for success. Everyone should try it!

Locally owned small businesses are one of the best indicators of the health of a community. Their presence across neighborhoods are a sign that there is widespread access to opportunity; that residents control their own spaces and that people can thrive in place. They foster collaboration, creativity, and most importantly, accountability and civic responsibility towards the people in our neighborhoods.

I am so excited to be sitting on the other side of the table this year and learn about all the dreamers who are fighting really
hard to make a positive impact in their communities through business.”

Toyia Taylor, Founder of We.App and IMPACT Pitch 2018 Emcee

Photo courtesy of Seattle Medium.

Toyia T. Taylor has used her voice to inspire audiences nationally and internationally. In 2016 she was featured in the City Arts Magazine for her work with youth through the arts. She was also the first recipient of the Wonder of Women (WOW) Community award. An award reserved for women who inspire women and girls to find their voice, stand in their truth, and celebrate their wonder by telling their story. In 2015 she was a recipient of the National Council of Negro Women Incorporated, Style and Substance award. She has also received the Education for Social Justice Award from Girls for Gender Equity, Incorporated. Toyia has spoken and performed for O Magazine at the Women Rule Leadership Training Conference, co-sponsored by the White House project. She was also featured in the 35th Anniversary Limited Edition of Interview Magazine as one of the top new artists and leaders to look out for in New York City.

Dedicated to community service, social justice, and the performing arts, her passion for inspiring others won her the title of Miss District of Columbia, which advanced her to the 1999-2000 Miss America Pageant. Toyia is the first woman of color to perform oratory at the Miss America Pageant.

Today, she is the proud founder and director of the We.APP (We Act. Present. Perform.) Young Artists Academy (YAA). YAA provides public speaking as an elective in public schools that inspire students to speak their truth and share their story without regrets. By doing so, young scholars learn that public speaking is not about presenting but creating authentic conversations that allow every young adult to be heard, celebrated, and more importantly understood regardless of race, gender, or class.


Join us at the IMPACT Pitch on October 4th for a chance to meet our judges and emcee. To purchase tickets for the IMPACT Pitch Live Competition & Showcase, visit: businessimpactnw.org/annualevents/impact


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