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Community Advocacy Organization

Nyshell Lawrence’s Socialight Society Takes Top Prize at LEAP’s First Outdoor Hatching Event

Bookstore centered on celebrating Black women and Black literature takes home first prize; Jacob Mervyn’s blend of coffee and cinematic horror, Crema-torium, takes second place

Courtesy Photo-All Program Five Graduate Nyshell Lawrence, who took home $2,000 for her idea Socialight Society—a bookstore centering the narrative of Black women and Black literature. second-place prize went to Jacob Mervyn for his idea Crema-torium & Cinecafe

LANSING, Mich. (Sept. 1, 2022) — In a night of creative collaboration, six local entrepreneurs pitched at The Hatching, Lansing Economic Area Partnership’s (LEAP) regular pitch competition. The event, which was open to entrepreneurs in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Shiawassee counties, took place Aug. 25 and marked LEAP’s first outdoor pitch competition—taking place in the Albert EL Fresco Social District in East Lansing. August’s pitch lineup included: a volleyball club for underserved youth, a sewing business for customized clothing, a real estate mediator to keep money in the owner/seller’s pocket, and an eco-conscious reusable container initiative meant to reduce takeout waste.

"Despite a rainy evening, we were pleased to have our six entrepreneurs pitch to a packed tent of friends, family and other community members. Congratulations to not just our two winners, but everyone who had the courage to stand up and pitch their idea," said Katlyn Cardoso, director of entrepreneurial ecosystem development at LEAP. "A special thanks to our friends at the city of East Lansing for their partnership on this event, judges, sponsors, vendors and finally our incredible LEAP staff. These events would not be possible without the dedication and support of everyone involved."

The top prize went to One and All Program Five Graduate Nyshell Lawrence, who took home $2,000 for her idea Socialight Society—a bookstore centering the narrative of Black women and Black literature—which has a physical location in the Lansing Mall. Lawrence’s pitch persuaded the judges with its well-defined explanation of the need for and importance of representation for Black culture in media.

“Winning the Hatching was such a surreal experience,” said Lawrence. “I’m grateful for every opportunity to share the vision and mission of Socialight Society with new audiences— and I’m extremely excited for the opportunities this investment in my business will afford our community!”

The $1,000 second-place prize went to Jacob Mervyn for his idea Crema-torium & Cinecafe—a gathering space that merges the art of cinematic horror with the art of coffee. Mervyn’s business will provide a space for coffee and horror connoisseurs to discuss films during hours when traditional coffee shops have closed for the day, bringing an independent theatre to the heart of Lansing.

“I found myself completely wowed by how thoughtful and practical everyone's ideas were. One thing that stood out in every pitch was the emphasis on community building—I feel like now more than ever we need that community sense, and I can't wait to bring that to Lansing in the form of a film hang-out space. All of the positive feedback really showed that Lansing is full of film geeks and coffee lovers,” said Mervyn. “In addition, the advice given by Gloria, Jerry, and Mr. Leslie was invaluable to me. I have consistently been putting it into action as I move ahead with my venture.”

Along with a great lineup of entrepreneurs, the event featured an expert judging panel, including Theresa Dubiel of Lake Trust Credit Union, Charley Hasemann of Michigan State University, and Harrison Leffel-Jones of LEAP. The event brought back Lansing Poet Laureate Masaki Takahashi as emcee and featured a halftime panel of local entrepreneurs.

Courtesy Photo- (L to R) Lansing Poet Laureate Masaki Takahashi, Jerry Norris (The Fledge) Gloria Trevino (TheraPLAYoga), And Marcus Leslie (Mr. Leslie's Cheesecakes)

"We're proud to use The Hatching as an opportunity to support other small-business owners and LEAP program alumni," said Joe Carr, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at LEAP. "The entrepreneur panel that took place during judges' deliberations included One and All program five alum and May 2021 Hatching second-place winner Gloria Trevino of TheraPLAYoga, June 2020 Hatching winner and current Elevate participant Marcus Leslie and frequent LEAP program collaborator Jerry Norris of The Fledge."

The event also featured catering by One and All participants—both graduates and mentors— including Jose Aste of Tantay, Deanna Ray-Brown of Everything is Cheesecake and Liz Kruger of Honey Bun Bakery. The decision to include members of the LEAP ecosystem in both the panel and catering was a strategic move to further foster a well-connected and inspiring entrepreneurship environment for a more innovative region and to connect participants to the existing LEAP network and resource ecosystem.

The Hatching was made possible by the generous support of Venture Sponsor the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Angel Sponsor Lake Trust Credit Union and Seed Sponsors AF Group, CASE Credit Union, Cinnaire, MSU Desk Drawer Fund, and MSU Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“The MEDC is proud to continue our support of the Hatching Business Pitch Competition led by LEAP. This event demonstrates how we break down barriers for entrepreneurs by exposing them to critical resources like coaching and mentorship in preparation for capital opportunities,” said LeTasha Peebles, grant manager of entrepreneurship and innovation at MEDC. “The Hatching amplifies LEAP’s continued commitment to economic vitality and validates our support of this endeavor. We are excited to see the growth and momentum of this program and the return on investment it brings to the Lansing community and beyond.” 

The next Hatching event will take place early November—those interested in participating, pitching or supporting Lansing’s cutting-edge entrepreneurs can learn more at

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