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Source: Brandon Caldwell / Radio One Digital

The Houston Public Library and the Office of Business Opportunity have identified the 9 finalists for the 2021 Liftoff Houston Startup Business Plan Competition. More than a hundred Houstonians applied and attended a series of workshops to help prepare them to fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams of starting their own business.

“Liftoff Houston is an extraordinary opportunity for the brightest minds in our city to get a leg up on achieving their goals. With new businesses playing an integral role in Houston’s economic future, we are thrilled about this year’s finalists,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I am extremely proud of this year’s contestants, and I want to thank Capital One Bank for sponsoring this innovative approach to meeting consumer needs.”

‘Pitch Day’ is Saturday, November 6th, and will be streamed live from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., on HTV Houston Television. Aptly named, as it’s the day the 9 finalists will pitch their business plans to a panel of judges. Judges will rate each finalist, and Houstonians can vote for a fan favorite in real time using the Mentimeter app. One winner for each business category will receive $10,000 in start-up funding from Capital One Bank.

Since 2013, nearly 14,000 Houstonians have participated in Liftoff Houston, and more than $270,000 in prize money has been awarded by Capital One, with a total investment of $500,000. Kicked off by Mayor Turner in late summer, Liftoff Houston is administered by the Houston Public Library (HPL) and the Office of Business Opportunity (OBO). Both City departments provide free access to business development resources, including investment reference tools, market research, state of the art technology equipment with high-speed Wi-Fi (HPL), as well as cohort-based business development programs, webinars, 1-1 business counseling, and free legal consultations (OBO).

The 9 brought their ‘A’ games when it came to ingenuity and creativity.

Topics covered during training included business plan basics, raising capital, marketing, and free City of Houston business resources. Participants developed business plans which were reviewed and judged by representatives from Capital One Bank and SCORE Houston. These 9 finalists ascended:


  • Better Way Body  Leg Toning Dumbbell | Alina Kravchenko, owner
  • Come Cleane – App-based Laundry Service | Chijinma Ewelike, owner
  • Switches – Enjoy Chefs’ Creations from around the Globe at a Food Truck | Maryellen Vargas, owner


  • Healthy Hair Magic  Organic Hair Care Products | Julia Johnson, owner
  • SafetyKay  Safety Kits for Kids | Krystle Hodge, owner
  • Serendipity Picnic – Everything Needed for the Perfect Picnic | Mary Lynn Fernau, owner


  • Care Connect – For your  Non-emergency Transportation Needs | Courtney Booker, owner
  • ClaraTech – Allows More Mature Adults to be Tech Saavy, Connected, & Independent  | Clara Orlean, owner
  • Seven Seeds Productions – Teaches Soft Skills (confidence, social skills) to ChildrenLisa Godfrey, owner