Swisher Announces Results of Its Startup for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs Program

3 businesses awarded through program with University of North Florida
Swisher tobacco logo

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —Swisher awarded three entrepreneurs funding to support the development and growth of their businesses as part of the Swisher Startup for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs program.

The company created the program with the University of North Florida’s (UNF) Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and it is designed to encourage innovators and entrepreneurs from all walks of life, according to Swisher. Through e-learning, participants gain access to university faculty and resources to improve their business knowledge and plans, and the program awards top pitch winners with funding to support the development of their business.

Recently, the Swisher Startup for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs heard from 10 startups that were part of the program’s first cohort. The top three winners received $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000, respectively.

The winners were:

  • First place: GaAIS LLC. Guenevere Perry’s biotech company that developed an eco-friendly, effective and economical bio-fungicide for small farmers and home gardeners in Florida.
  • Second place: Kic Brush. Markin Barnes’ company that developed a product to help eliminate the spread of diseases and viruses from person to person.
  • Third place: BudJet Vest. Monalisa McKinney-Young created a travel vest that allows the user to wear their luggage while traveling by plane. 

The program will continue this fall, and the 10 startups that were part of the first cohort were invited to join the next phase. Participants in the Growth Cohort will be given the opportunity to build a financial model for their business and a company message map, Swisher said.

“Swisher’s inclusion, diversity and transformation strategy is designed to build sustainable plans to better the community,” said Alexandria Deal, Swisher’s manager of inclusion, diversity and transformation.  “It was an honor to collaborate with UNF and build upon its commitment to early-stage companies and entrepreneurs in northeast Florida.”

Swisher, Jacksonville, Fla., is a tobacco company known for its Swisher Sweet Cigars and other brands including Fat Lip Brands, Hempire and Rogue. 

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