Cincy tourism company, chef top annual “Flight Night” pitch competition

Two women-led startups earned top prizes at Aviatra Accelerators’ perennial “Flight Night” pitch competition this month, earning cash prizes totaling $10,000 to support their businesses.

Aclipse Campervans, founded in 2019 by friends Sofia Mimendi and Emily Bruns, placed first, receiving $6,000. Aclipse Campervans provides a unique and all-inclusive solution for people who want to adventure in nature, but without the need to invest in their own camping gear. The company’s rentable campervans provide a higher level of comfort and amenities that traditional camping does not.

Mimendi and Bruns have seen a huge spike as the Covid-19 pandemic pushes more people outdoors. The company is looking to raise $200,000 to add more vans, hire personnel and add satellite locations.

Looqma, founded by Dominique Khoury, took second place and a $4,000 prize.

Looqma (pronouced LOOK-ma) is a pop-up kitchen, artisanal bakery, catering company and integrative wellness concept inspired by Khoury’s Lebanese heritage. Khoury, who was born in South Africa and moved to San Diego as a child, grew up visiting neighborhood farms and forming meals that reflected home. Looqma is an opportunity to experience and interact with high-quality fresh bakery products and dishes, she said.

Aviatra Accelerators, a Covington-based nonprofit accelerator tailored to women-owned startups and small businesses, hosted the “Flight Night” pitch competition to showcase five female-founded businesses that participated in “Launch,” one of three classes Aviatra offers. Launch is tailored to female business owners who already operate a vetted business with an established revenue stream and customer base. 

The cohort, which included nine weeks of classes from June through August, partnered the women with subject matter experts and mentors to further develop their business plans and financial projections

Past Flight Night pitch competitions have attracted more than 250 attendees. In the interest of safety, this year’s Flight Night was hosted in hybrid fashion, featuring an invitation-only event live streamed on Facebook, viewed by nearly 600 people.

Nancy Aichholz 2021
Nancy Aichholz is the president and CEO of Aviatra Accelerators.
Ross Van Pelt Photography

“We were determined that these newest entrepreneurs would have the best possible experience to ‘launch’ their businesses and be presented to the community in a professional and impactful way,” Nancy Aichholz, president and CEO of Aviatra Accelerators, said in a release.

Pre-recorded video pitches were aired online, while the six contestants joined live from the Children’s Theater.

Viewers throughout the evening had the opportunity to “vote” for their fan favorite for $5 a vote. This year’s fan favorite was Jennifer Panepinto of Painted Bread Marketing. Painted Bread Marketing aims to help companies scale and grow using creative and modern marketing strategies, including website maintenance, social media, email campaigns, PR and more. Panepinto has experience working for startups, Fortune 1,000 companies and non-profits. 

Aviatra Accelerators, formerly Bad Girl Ventures, serves the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton markets. In addition to its Launch program, Aviatra offers Explore, for early-stage business owners, and Grow, for entrepreneurs eying expansion, among other support efforts.

Since its founding in 2010, Aviatra has served 2,700 women and granted more than $1 million in low-interest loans. Its entrepreneurs have received more than $10 million in follow-on funding and have generated more than $1 billion in revenue.