Why the Hornets launched a Shark Tank-like competition for Charlotte entrepreneurs

Why the Hornets launched a Shark Tank-like competition for Charlotte entrepreneurs
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Now through Feb. 2, the Hornets are accepting applications for a Shark Tank-like business competition specifically for minority entrepreneurs in Charlotte.

Details: The Charlotte Hornets Foundation will award the winner of the inaugural summit a $15,000 investment. The goal is to increase access to social and financial capital.

  • The competition open to businesses within 150 miles of the Spectrum Center that are at least 51% minority-owned.
  • The five finalists will have their one-minute pitch videos posted on hornets.com and social media outlets for fan voting. They’ll present to a panel of experts in March.

Why it matters: This is part of a new social justice platform the team launched last week to address economic mobility. Social justice has been a focus of the Hornets — and the NBA as a whole — for years.

  • The 2014 Harvard study that ranked Charlotte dead last among major U.S. cities in social mobility was “a real eye opener for all of us in the community, not just the Hornets,” team president Fred Whitfield said.

Zoom out: Last fall, the Hornets hosted early voting at the Spectrum Center as part of the team’s “Swarm the Polls” project to encourage people to vote. The Hornets have also offered up the Spectrum Center to Novant Health to use for mass vaccination events.

Flashback: When he bought the Hornets, Michael Jordan made clear that he wanted the team to play a role in the community off the court.

  • In 2016, Whitfield was part of a group of local business leaders who lobbied state lawmakers to repeal House Bill 2, which limited legal protections for LGBTQ people and caused major business backlash, including the loss of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.
  • In 2019, Jordan and Novant Health opened two clinics in Charlotte to serve residents who are uninsured or underinsured.

Looking ahead, expect the team, through its new platform, to work on prison reform, Whitfield said, as well as voter initiatives focused on education and removing barriers to voting.

“It’s not just national elections,” says Betsy Mack, executive director of the Charlotte Hornets Foundation. “As we move forward we’ll focus on local elections as well, which are as important, if not more.”

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