Good News / Connect All Accelerator

Left to right: Meri Birhane, Anahi Abe-Brower, and Jasmine Sadler won the third annual Union Bank Start-Up Pitching Competition

Recent graduates of a local business accelerator program competed in Union Bank’s third annual start-up pitching competition on December 18, and out of nine contestants, three entrepreneurs—all women of color—won the contest and were awarded funding for their companies.

The event was the latest held by Connect All @ the Jacobs Center, an accelerator dedicated to minority-owned companies. Contestants completed a four-month training program, and then had just five minutes to pitch their ideas in a video presentation to a panel of judges.

The first-place winner is Anahi Abe-Brower, founder of Worthy Picks, a line of reusable utensils, straws, toothbrushes, and other household goods made out of sustainable materials such as bamboo and organic cotton. Abe-Brower won $7,500 to support and expand her business. Her products can be ordered through her website and are also found in local boutiques, like Pigment.

“Anahi Abe-Brower did a fantastic job of showing the judges the need for her eco-friendly business and growth trajectory,” Jeanette Gann-Escobar, Union Bank’s director and branch manager for the downtown San Diego location and a judge on the panel, said in a release. “We agree with Anahi that big changes often start with small steps and look forward to seeing her company thrive.”

Meri Consulting Services, a business firm started by Meri Birhane that helps IT companies, startups, and sales teams book more meetings and increase revenue, won the Audience Choice Award and the second-place prize of $5,000. The $2,500 third-place winner was The STEAM Collaborative, an organization founded by Jasmine Sadler, a trained rocket scientist and ballerina, that offers youth programs in science, technology, and art.

Connect All is a partnership between the city of San Diego, the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, and Connect with San Diego Venture Group.

Christmas arrived early for dozens of local families thanks to the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA. In its annual Christmas with Character celebration, 50 families and children in need received toys, gift cards, and a kit with essential in-demand household items. The center hosted the special drive-thru celebration, where kids got to see Santa (from a distance) and enjoy a festive display of holiday lights.

Donors that made the event possible and provided the kits include Falck Ambulance, Hewlett-Packard, and the Chicano Federation.

The Jackie Robinson Family YMCA serves communities in Southeast San Diego and offers outdoor exercise programs and school enrichment programs. Visit their website to learn more or to donate.

Good News / San Diego Food Bank

San Diego Food Bank

Last week, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation granted $67,500 to hunger relief organizations throughout California, including a $15,000 gift to the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank. The funds will go toward the purchase and distribution of the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program (F4KBP), and will be able to support 75 local children for the 2020–2021 school year.

James Floros, the food bank’s CEO, recently told KPBS that the organization estimates 1 million San Diegans are now food insecure—this is the double the amount from 2019, which comprised one in seven people in the county. The food bank is always in need of donations to support their programs, such as the Super Pantry contactless food distribution service, home food delivery for seniors, and food drives. Visit for more info.

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