Social Entrepreneurs Vie for $100K in ‘Shark Tank’ event ‘With a Heart’

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas will host an April 6 pitch contest for early-stage social ventures.

UNT Institute

Five social entrepreneurs will be competing in a Shark Tank-style pitch contest April 6 at The Bomb Factory in Dallas. 

During “OneUp the Pitch,” social entrepreneurs will present their solutions to community issues in front of five celebrity judges — Todd Wagner (founder and CEO of the Charity Network and Mark Cuban’s business partner), David Brown (former Dallas police chief), Lyda Hill (Dallas philanthropist), Amber Venz Box (rewardStyle co-founder), and Harrison Barnes (Dallas Mavericks player). 

There’s $100,000 on the line — $75,000 for the judges’ pick and $25,000 for the audience’s choice. 

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is hosting the event with support from five chapters of the Young Presidents’ Organization, a global chief executive leadership organization with headquarters in Irving. YPO has helped coach the contestants with their pitches. 

Jennifer Sampson, president and CEO of Dallas’ United Way, told The Dallas Morning News “OneUp the Pitch” is like a “Shark Tank with a heart.” 

“Mark Cuban recently said social enterprise is the future of capitalism.”
Jennifer Sampson

Sampson, who also serves as the incoming education chair of the Dallas YPO chapter, told the newspaper YPO sees the potential to expand the event to other cities. 

“Mark Cuban recently said social enterprise is the future of capitalism,” Sampson told the Morning News. “So when you back these startups — innovators who look at things differently — we, collectively as a community, might be able to solve problems that have been unsolvable before.”

Tickets to the event are $50 for general admission and $100 for VIPs. Proceeds will benefit United Way’s GroundFloor, the accelerator program that helps guide early-stage social ventures to success through mentorship, education, and networking events. OneUp contestants are either current or past fellows of the social accelerator program. 

Here’s a look at the OneUp contestants: 

Akola is a nonprofit jewelry line that describes itself as a “full impact brand,” meaning steps throughout the production process have a social giveback element. It provides work and training for impoverished women in Uganda and Dallas and invests 100 percent of its profits back into its mission. Last fall, it launched a high-end luxury line with Dallas-based Neiman Marcus. The nonprofit is a GroundFloor alum.

Bonton Farms is a South Dallas urban farm founded to alleviate the area’s food desert. In the next phase, it’s planning to open a neighborhood market to give the farm a venue to sell its fresh produce and educate the community on healthy living. Bonton Farms is a current GroundFloor fellow. 

Café Momentum is a restaurant and training facility at 1510 Pacific St. in downtown Dallas that takes at-risk young people who have been involved in the legal system and aims to transform their lives through intensive culinary, work, and life-skill training. It is a GroundFloor alum. 

Equal Heart helps to alleviate child and family hunger through its mobile food pantry and other programs. The nonprofit is a GroundFloor alum.

Per Scholas is a national nonprofit offering free technology education as well as job training and placement with particular focus on building a more diverse technical workforce. It is a GroundFloor alum. 


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