Atlanta, Feb 02, 2015  - Operation HOPE, the leading global financial dignity non-profit, successfully hosted the first annual HOPE Business In A Box Academies (HBIABA) Pitch Competition as part of the 2015 HOPE Global Forum at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center in downtown Atlanta from January 15-17.

The pitch competition brought together four previous winners from the HBIABA competitions in their local high schools and middle schools in Atlanta. The youth entrepreneurs spent over three months, weekends and evenings preparing for the competition on the main stage.

The judges, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton, President and COO of Cinnabon, Kat Cole and AOL Founder, Steve Case, were allowed to ask each business one question after their pitch.  The results included a twist: the judges were so inspired by the presentations, they upped the prize money so that second, third and fourth place would each receive $1,000 and the winner a Grand Prize of  $2,000. This year’s winner was Muhammad Bah owner of Mobile Mini Mart.

The businesses involved were:

  • Clean Cut Lawn & Garden, Founders, Nicholas Hunter and Isaiah Mitchell
  • Frost Productions, Founder and CEO, Rayshaun Clark aka DJ Frost
  • Mick’s Jewelry, CEO and Designer, Micyra Cohen
  • Mobile Mini Mart, Founder and CEO, Muhammad Bah

The hosts for the pitch completion were Mary Hagerty Ehrsam, President, Global Youth Empowerment Group, CEO New York Market and Celie Neihaus, Captial One Managing VP, Retail & Direct Bank Chief Compliance Officer. The students were introduced by a video sharing their background, allowed up to two minutes to pitch and permitted to use their products and props.


HOPE Business In A Box Academies are part of Operation HOPE’s Project 5117 initiative which targets the financially ill-equipped aspirants – youth and adults – people of all ages, races, and places in America who have not been exposed to the inner workings of the American economy for lack of self-confidence, access, opportunity, and role models.   

After the winner was announced Isaiah Mitchell ofClean Cut Lawn & Garden commented “The experience was a memorable one. The crowd was vibrant and gave us a lot of confidence while on stage. I want to thank judges for making all of us winners and we plan on expanding our business with this capital.” Rayshaun Clark of Frost Productions added “It was a life changing and from the first day of practice where  I understood the importance of this competition.  It added a layer from the first time winning $500 by expanding my network to a variety of business and community leaders.”

This year's Forum coincided with a weekend of celebrations in the city of Atlanta in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.  Prominent speakers included President Bill Clinton, HUD Secretary Julián Castro, CFPB Director Richard Cordray, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Brazillian billionaire  Ricardo Semler and a host of Fortune 500 CEO’s and leaders from the public and private sector.


The HOPE Global Forum Annual Meeting convened leaders to outline a vision for the modern global economy – a vision that includes all people. Where the poor, underserved and teetering middle class are seen as untapped assets for economic growth, entrepreneurship and job creation. The theme of this year's Forum was "Reimagining the Global Economy: Expanding Free Enterprise for All."


To learn more about the 2015 HOPE Global Forum, please visit:


About Operation HOPE
Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been providing financial dignity and economic empowerment to over 2.2 million individuals worldwide. Through its work, HOPE turns check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers. For additional information about Operation HOPE, go to

Follow the conversation about the latest news on the 2015 HOPE Global Forum on Twitter, @operationhope, #HOPESummit, and like us on Facebook.

Posted by Natasha Eldridge, Office of the Chairman


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