“Our purpose at Goodwill of North Georgia is not just about creating jobs but fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship,” CEO Keith Parker said. “Every dollar raised signifies a beacon of hope, a dream realized, and a brighter future for the residents of North Georgia.”
Since 2018, graduates of Goodwill’s GoodBiz Entrepreneurship Program have started 243 new businesses and created 431 new jobs, a statement said.
Profits from sales at Goodwill of North Georgia’s stores are used to fund 14 career centers located across the region. In fiscal year 2022, the organization helped over 16,000 people get connected with jobs, according to the nonprofit.
The Battle of the Biz gala marks the culmination of the nearly 15-week workshop in which aspiring entrepreneurs receive free career coaching.
In a competition prior to the event, graduates presented business proposals to judges. The top three finalists were honored Saturday and winner Kristel Valencia, founder of Cafexito Mexican Coffee Shop, was awarded a $10,000 prize.
Meghan Pietrantonio, Head of Strategy & Community Affairs at Truist Foundation, presented the check.
The other two finalists were Toyasha Albert, founder of SELF Do you Believe in Education?; and Katrena Holmes, founder of Strategic Product Development International.
Albert’s organization offers a curriculum-based workshop to girls ages 5-18 on self-awareness and empowerment.
Holmes has created a spinach dip with multiple flavors. In 2011, her jalapeno-infused spinach dip earned a spot on the menu of Dugan’s Restaurant and Bar in College Park, the statement said. She is now working to have the dip available in restaurants across metro Atlanta.
Goodwill honorees also include Stephanie Stuckey, CEO of Stuckey’s, who received the “Iron Will Award” celebrating entrepreneurial spirit and resiliency. And The Home Depot was this year’s recipient of the “Power of Work Award,” honoring companies empowering people to discover their potential through work.
“This gala isn’t just a celebration.” Parker said. “It’s a testament to the enduring spirit of our community coming together to uplift one another and shine a spotlight on the landmark training programs Goodwill offers across its 14 Career Centers, at no cost for the community.”