Disability-Owned Businesses to Compete as Finalists in Disability-IN’s Virtual Pitch Perfect Challenge, Expanding Work Opportunities for Disabled Entrepreneurs

Disability-Owned Businesses to Compete as Finalists in Disability:IN’s Virtual Pitch Perfect Challenge, Expanding Work Opportunities for Disabled Entrepreneurs

Winners receive up to $10K, in-kind prizes and access to corporate supplier opportunities as part of Disability:IN’s global Supplier Diversity program

ALEXANDRIA, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#areyouin–Disability:IN, the global organization driving disability inclusion and equality in business, has chosen three Disability-Owned Business Enterprises (DOBE®s) to compete as finalists on October 21 in the 10th Pitch Perfect Challenge as part of Disability:IN’s Supplier Diversity program that certifies disabled-owned businesses.

The finalists are:

  • Black Box Safety, a safety products and training company
  • Dusty Studio, a boutique animation design and production house
  • 2axend, a strategic consulting and training firm, and ‘people’s choice’ as determined by social media voting

On October 21 at 1:00 pm EDT, the owners of the companies—chosen from 28 total applicants—will give their final virtual pitches “Shark Tank” style to a panel of corporate experts. Winners will be announced at the end of the challenge, with $10,000 in cash for the first-place winner, $7,500 in cash for the second-place winner, and $500 for the third-place winner.

Additionally, all three winners will receive a scholarship to attend a one-week Executive Education program at Dartmouth College’s Tuck Business School that focuses on building or growing diverse businesses, sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb. Winners also will have the opportunity to meet with executives at several companies that are looking to provide contracting and subcontracting opportunities to disability-owned businesses.

The Pitch Perfect Challenge is part of a Disability:IN program that certifies Disability-Owned Business Enterprises (DOBE®s), Veteran Disability-Owned Business Enterprises (V-DOBE™s) and Service-Disabled Veteran Disability-Owned Business Enterprises (SDV-DOBE™s). program. Disability:IN is the leading third-party certifier of DOBEs. To qualify, an enterprise must be a for-profit business that is at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by a person with a disability. The DOBE program grew 40% to 250 businesses in 2020.

“Disability inclusion is not just about hiring. Supplier diversity has become a more critical part of ESG and companies’ sustainability efforts. Our data shows disability-owned businesses are 6 to 7 times as likely to employ other people with disabilities. During Disability Employment Awareness Month, we want to elevate these businesses alongside the hundreds of companies we partner with that engage in supplier diversity programs and build economic opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Jill Houghton, President and CEO, Disability:IN.

Approximately 700,000 workers with disabilities are self-employed, according to the latest U.S. Census. People with disabilities, by definition, often need to find new and less traditional paths to success to meet their physical needs. Under the DOBE program, disabled entrepreneurs develop their skills and get direct access to companies that contract with minority business owners.

“We’re excited to prepare these incredible entrepreneurs to pitch and communicate their value to companies that are actively looking for unique products and services. By expanding their supplier diversity portfolio commitments, these companies will open doors for disabled entrepreneurs and provide resources and tools to succeed faster,” said Jennifer McNeil, executive director of indirect strategic sourcing at Cox Communications, one of three Pitch Perfect Challenge judges along with supplier diversity executives from MGM Resorts and Royal Bank of Canada/City National.

Disability:IN will announce the Pitch Perfect Challenge winners on their website and on Twitter at @DisabilityIN on October 21. Click here to learn more about supplier diversity and the Pitch Perfect Challenge. To watch the pitches live via Zoom, register here.

About the Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) program

The DOBE program is a Nationally Recognized Certification including The Billion Dollar Roundtable, the corporate advocacy organization that recognizes and celebrates corporations that achieved spending of at least $1 billion with minority and women-owned suppliers. The Disability:IN Supplier Diversity program drives thought leadership for the supplier diversity profession, while advancing best practices that create supply-chain opportunities for certified disability-owned and service-disabled owned business enterprises. Learn more about how businesses get certified here.

About Disability:IN®

Disability:IN is a global organization driving disability inclusion and equality in business. More than 280 corporations trust Disability:IN to activate and achieve disability inclusion across their enterprise and in the broader corporate mainstream. Through the world’s most comprehensive disability inclusion benchmarking; best-in-class conferences and programs; and expert counsel and engagement, Disability:IN works with leading businesses to create long-term business and societal impact. Join us at disabilityin.org/AreYouIN #AreYouIN


Suzanne Robitaille

Archie Group for Disability:IN


Mischler, Nation’s Oldest Diversity-Certified Investment Bank Owned & Operated by Military Veterans Adds Two More Seasoned Capital Market Professionals

STAMFORD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#dei–Mischler Financial Group, Inc. (“Mischler”), the financial industry’s oldest diversity-certified investment bank owned and operated by service-disabled veterans, today announced the further expansion of the firm’s capital markets desk with the hiring of industry veterans Tom Ritchie, CFA, and Mark Jicka. Both have been appointed Managing Directors.

Jicka and Ritchie Mischler PRS
Mischler logo

Mr. Jicka, who will serve as Managing Director, Credit Sales/Trading is a US Navy veteran who served eight years as a Naval Aviator. He began his financial industry career at Goldman Sachs, where he served eight years in successively senior sales and trading roles within the firm’s fixed income division. During his 20-year industry career, Mr.Jicka has been successively recruited to serve in Managing Director level trading roles for among others, Deutsche Bank, Barclays Capital, Mizuho Securities, and CIBC World Markets. Prior to his US Naval service, Mr. Jicka attended Northwestern University, and upon completing his tour(s) of duty, he returned to Northwestern Kellogg School of Management for his MBA. In his new role at Mischler, Mr. Jicka will oversee sales/trading across investment grade and high yield corporate credit and will work directly with the firm’s institutional customers.

Mr. Ritchie has been appointed Managing Director, Primary Debt Capital Markets, he joins Mischler from NatWest USA, where he served as Managing Director and Head of Origination and Risk Solutions. Prior to NatWest, Mr. Ritchie was Managing Director and Head of Financial Institutions Debt Capital Markets for Credit Suisse. In his new role, Mr. Ritchie’s focus will be financial institutions. He is a graduate of Cornell University and received his MBA from Yale School of Management.

Dean Chamberlain, Mischler’s CEO stated, “The addition of both Tom and Mark speaks directly to our primary focus on meeting the needs of Fortune treasury clients, our primary bank partners, and our trading desk customers by ensuring that we always have a deep bench of seasoned debt market veterans who are fluent in every aspect of primary debt issuance and placement working alongside specialists in the art of navigating secondary markets in the best interests of our clients.”

Rob Karr, Mischler’s Head of Capital Markets added, “We know that Issuers, lead bank syndicate teams, and asset managers have many options within the context of selecting diversity-certified firms to work within in the course of underwriting and trade execution across investment grade and high yield debt markets. We can help that decision-making process by always standing apart when folks actually take a close look at the qualifications, capabilities, and pedigree of the people and the firms they will be relying upon.”

About Mischler

Established in 1994, Mischler is the securities industry’s oldest diversity-certified broker-dealer owned and operated by Service-Disabled Veterans. The firm is a federally certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Enterprise (SDVOSB) and a fully-certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE). Mischler boot prints can be found across the primary debt and equities capital markets, where the firm serves as a pure complement to the role played by lead underwriters and works with a broad spectrum of corporate debt and equity issuers and municipal debt issuers. Mischler’s holistic approach to institutional brokerage combines next-level technology with concierge-style, high-touch service to provide better execution for corporate treasury clients overseeing share repurchase and FX hedging strategies and for asset managers who oversee investment strategies across domestic and global equities, ETFs, fixed income, rates, and FX markets. Mischler also offers ESG-centric short-term cash solutions for corporations and asset managers via a strategic partnership with BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. The firm’s website is located at www.mischlerfinancial.com


Dean Chamberlain, Chief Executive Officer