WBENC reflects on the journey of 26 Dynamic Female Founders from the 2023 Collegiate Accelerator as we prepare to welcome the 2024 CA Cohort (Applications OPEN NOW!)

At the WBENC National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, the 2023 Collegiate Accelerator cohort participated in a series of events at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center that showcased and spotlighted their innovative businesses among 4,000+ attendees. This program engaged the cohort in virtual curriculum and pitch training preceding National Conference, with the ongoing initiative to give students access to resources, specialized education, and personalized mentorship.


The 2023 Collegiate Accelerator Cohort poses in front of the famous WBENC Letters in the convention center lobby.

While in Nashville, the cohort met for small group classroom sessions aimed at helping students gain a deeper understanding of the key concepts necessary for growing their ventures such as Business Strategies for Growth and Financial Basics for Startups. Student participants also showcased their ventures on the expo floor and participated in the Collegiate Accelerator Pitch Competition totaling $20,000 in seed capital grants

The Collegiate Accelerator Mentorship Program

By harnessing the power of the WBENC network, students were are able to receive mentorship from seasoned women business owners alongside leading WBENC Corporate Members as part of the WBENC Collegiate Accelerator Mentorship Program. These pairings provided students with invaluable resources, advice, and connections as mentors assisted students in their entrepreneurial journeys while introducing them the world of entrepreneurial networking.



“The WBENC Collegiate Accelerator program takes me back to my younger self when I was an aspiring entrepreneur with a passion and dream to start my business. WBENC is paving the way for future generations of women entrepreneurs to build on that dream and accelerate their path to creating a successful business” – Rashmi Chaturvedi | Co-Founder & President, KAYGEN, Inc.

Interested in serving as a WBENC-Certified WBE Mentor for the 2023 CA Cohort? Learn more and sign up HERE

The Collegiate Accelerator Showcase

The 2023 Collegiate Accelerator Showcase commenced on the expo floor at the WBENC National Conference in Nashville, where students were able to meet and interact with more than 4,000 attendees. The 2023 CA cohort, fueled by their passion for entrepreneurship and desire to share their innovative ideas, began constructing their displays at the vibrant WBENC Collegiate Accelerator booth.

Merci Best, Founder of STEAMKITZ, displays her products at the Collegiate Accelerator booth

Some students, like Merci Best, Founder of STEAMKITX, exhibited their products and eye-catching displays with their Football STEAM Kick-Off kit. Other students who featured service-based ventures arranged interactive elements, such as Mariana Antaya, Founder of quantifAI, who placed a computer and tablet on separate ends of her booth to render the virtual experience of her app.

Mariana Antaya, Founder of quantifAI, smiles behind her Collegiate Accelerator booth.


The Collegiate Accelerator Pitch Compeition

On the last day of the 2023 WBENC National Conference, thousands gathered to attend the Closing Luncheon and eagerly awaited the CA Pitch Competition winner’s announcement. The CA Pitch Competition held earlier that day was brimming with talent as each student captivated the audience with their entrepreneurial passion and proficiency in storytelling, making for a diverse and dynamic competition ending in a standing ovation.


Marc Winston, Senior Manager II Supplier Inclusion at Walmart and judge for the Collegiate Accelerator Pitch Competition stated, “It was very challenging to pick the winners this year! We truly had a brilliant cohort with amazing pitches!”

Nadia Draughn, Founder of Stichwnadi

The Collegiate Accelerator Pitch Winners

Tayyaba Ali, Co-Founder & CEO of  Tikal Industries, secured third place in the Pitch Competition while Kate Gatfield-Jeffries, Founder of Moodi, emerged as the second-place winner, with both students showcasing remarkable talent and potential. When asked about the growth of Moodi since the completion of the Collegiate Accelerator, Kate states, “we’ve grown from having one product range with three flavors, to having two product ranges with a total of eight permanent products. We launched three limited edition products for the festive season, and have a third product range launching in Jan 2024.”

Destiny J. Wesley, Founder of MeasureMe, was awarded first place, as the judges were left with a lasting impression of her exceptional pitch. When asked where she envisions her business in five years, Wesley responded, “In the next 5 years, I envision MeasureMe innovating its technology to connect consumers to independent designers while partnering with the Global Sustainable Fashion Forum to end clothing waste.”

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to all the winners and participants of the 2023 Collegiate Accelerator cohort for their creativity, ingenuity, and dedication. Click here to learn more about the 2023 Collegiate Accelerator Winners.


Avery Trump, Collegiate Accelerator Program Manager, joined by beaming 2nd place awardee, Kate Fatfield-Jeffries and 3rd place awardee Tayyaba Ali, hugs and congratulates 1st place awardee Destiny J. Wesley with a $10,000 check in hand.


2023 Collegiate Accelerator Winners

1st Place

 Destiny J. Wesley

Founder   MeasureMe

2nd Place

 Kate Gatfield-Jeffries

Founder Moodi

3rd Place

Tayyaba Ali

Co-Founder & CEO   Tikal Industries

Congratulations to all the students in the cohort for their outstanding performance in the pitch competition and their enthusiastic participation in the Collegiate Accelerator Program. Every individual showcased awe-inspiring talent and passion for their businesses.

Thank you to FedEx and Walmart, the WBENC Collegiate Accelerator title sponsors and long-term supporters for their invaluable support and unwavering commitment to empowering and investing in the next generation of women-owned businesses.



Please reach out to valuedsponsors@wbenc.org or atrump@wbenc.org with any inquiries on Corporate sponsorships and/or partnerships for upcoming WBENC Collegiate Accelerator programming.