UNITY Awards $10,000 to Media Entrepreneurs

McLean, VA (March 6, 2012)- UNITY Journalists of Color, Inc.’s New U: News Entrepreneurs Working through UNITY project announced today that its three 2011-2012 seed grant winners have been selected based on two-thirds-weighted judges vote combined with a one-third crowd-sourced peer vote.

“Once again, we felt like using crowd-sourcing as part of our decision process was the fairest way to choose a winner,” said Alli Joseph, program co-director.

The winners from participating organizations or unaffiliated groups are Cynthia Liu (AAJA, K12 News Network) with 57.2%, Jason Frazer (Unaffiliated, Empowerment Network, 26.1%) and Ashley Cisneros with 56.2% (NAHJ, Ashley Cisneros, Inc.)

After the public vote concluded, a panel of esteemed, anonymous industry judges reviewed all candidates’ submissions and video pitches. Each of the three will receive $10,000 in seed money to fund their business.

“I’m so appreciative for this amazing program, and am excited to use the lessons I learned during the startup camp to grow my small business,” said winner Ashley Cisneros. “This seed money will help me hire more writers to meet demand. Thanks to this invaluable initiative, I had the rare opportunity to learn directly from seasoned entrepreneurs about strategies to strengthen my business plan and financial projections, and about ways to build relationships with angel investors and venture capitalists.”

New U is a Ford Foundation-funded program for journalists of color who want to become entrepreneurs. In fall 2011, fourteen participants attended two-day “boot camp” to learn skills, and pitch their ideas to a group of mentors and guest entrepreneurship experts. Pitches were video recorded, and in December, UNITY asked members and their friends to vote for the best business concept.

Winner Cynthia Liu used digital marketing to garner support online, and was happy to see it pay off. “We’re thrilled with the New U win — it’s recognition of our efforts at to reshape everyone’s understanding of education news as a social, proactive, and civic activity! This grant comes just in time for us to launch the community network part of our site, so parents facing more state budget cuts to their kids’ schools can start using our tools to organize and fight back.”

The New U project is intended to increase the number of innovative thinkers and product developers who are of color, providing them with a forum in which to develop and express innovative ideas. “We’ve taken this process several steps forward in the last 18 months,” said Doug Mitchell, program co-director. We’ve competitively selected seven grant recipients, found like-minded business accelerator partners and this coming August, again with support from The Ford Foundation, will find more media entrepreneurs who need help and provide that help.

Media Contact:
Onica N. Makwakwa, Executive Director
UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc.
Tel: (703) 854-3594

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