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5 Companies Win Meda’s Million Dollar Challenge

From R to L: Thereasa Black (Bon AppéSweet), Jules Porter (Seraph 7 Studios), Laila Zemrani (FitnesCity), Helya Mohammadian (SlickChicks), Wenceslaus Muenyi (HercLéon)

What to know about the winners of Meda’s Million Dollar Challenge:

Want to learn more about Jules Porter and Seraph 7 Studios? Read our feature that examines her journey from a dual J.D./M.B.A. degree to the United States Marine Corps to game developer.

Jules Porter: Digital Diversity and Super-Powered Senior Citizens

jules porter seraph 7 studios

Also, listen to our interview with Alfredo Martel, CEO and President of Meda, on Twenty Minutes for more information and background on the organization’s goals.

For more information about the fourth annual MEDA Million Dollar Challenge, read the release below.

MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Five BIPOC entrepreneurs have won in Meda’s fourth annual Million Dollar Challenge, the largest BIPOC entrepreneurial competition in the country, on Sept. 21, 2021, after 12 finalists from across the nation competed in the final pitch event. The following five companies were awarded $1.2 million in financing:

Bon AppeSweet – $350,000

Slick Chicks – $250,000

HercLéon – $200,000

FitnesCity – $200,000

Seraph 7 Studios – $200,000

“We had an incredible number of remarkable companies participate in the Meda Million Dollar Challenge this year, leaving all of us impressed and inspired,” said Alfredo Martel, CEO of Meda. “As we continue to navigate past the pandemic into the new economy, the innovation and dedication from these entrepreneurs leaves me hopeful for the impact they will have on the economy and their community.”

Nearly 200 businesses across the country applied to participate, and 12 finalists from six states participated in the Bootcamp for Successful Pitches and competed in front of 40 judges today. The past three years of the Million Dollar Challenge resulted in 18 BIPOC businesses from nine states receiving financial awards, totaling nearly $4 million. Four of this year’s five winning businesses are women-owned.

Access to capital is one of the main challenges BIPOC entrepreneurs face. Research has shown that lack of capital, as well as racial discrimination, are largely responsible for disparities between non-BIPOC and BIPOC businesses. As part of their mission to break down barriers to wealth and self-sufficiency that entrepreneurs of color face, Meda provides business consulting, financing solutions, corporate and government opportunities, and events like the Million Dollar Challenge to bring awareness to these issues and provide solutions.

About the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda):

Meda was founded by a group of Minnesota business leaders who saw BIPOC business ownership as a positive, long-term response to rising economic inequity within minority communities in our state. Meda provides business development services, access to capital and corporate and governmental market support for BIPOC entrepreneurs. Over the years, Meda has helped launch more than 500 BIPOC businesses and assisted more than 23,000 Minnesota BIPOC entrepreneurs. Meda operates a growing Community Development Fund Institution (CDFI) that provides needed capital for BIPOC businesses to become sustainable. Meda is also the host organization for the Minneapolis Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center, which has been recognized by the MBDA as the top performing center four of the last five years. For more information, visit

Alex Skjong
Alex oversees the content produced for BETA, Twin Cities Startup Week, and When he’s not writing or editing, there’s a good chance he’s enjoying a refreshing brew and explaining the merits of heavy metal (of which there are many).