Cultured Books Wins $ 15,000 Grand Prize in SVP Fast Pitch • St Pete Catalyst Contest
Loriel Hollaway founded Cultured Books to cultivate curiosity and inspire impact among local youth – especially children of color – by promoting a literacy-driven lifestyle.
Culture books started as a pop-up bookstore in 2017 to increase literacy rates and provide children in St. Petersburg with better access to culturally relevant literature. Hollaway also hopes to make an impact on children’s lives by ensuring that literacy extends far beyond school and becomes an integral part of their daily lives.
âI think that’s something that’s really important to how we market the programs that we have,â Hollaway explained. “It’s not just something that’s as one and made – it’s a way of life.”
Cultured Books was established as a non-profit organization in 2018, and the surrounding community is aware of its impact. Holloway won the grand prize of $ 15,000 in the Social Ventures Partners Tampa Bay Fast Pitch Contest on November 12th.
Hollaway relayed that he was often told that his Cultured Books Literacy Foundation (CBLF) mission was amazing and necessary, but that it did not meet the criteria for funding.
She said Friday night’s victory was all the more surprising. âI was thrilled to see that people connected to our story – from the judges to the people in the crowd,â Hollaway said.
Held at the Palladium, the Fast Pitch event is the culmination of a 16-week program in which carefully selected nonprofits receive lessons from SVP’s local business partners on how to successfully run a business. The emphasis is on marketing and storytelling to strengthen the organization’s public profile and increase revenue streams outside of government and private grants. Representatives from eight local nonprofits gave a three-minute presentation on their organization’s mission and impact on the community, then answered follow-up questions from a panel of five judges.
âIt’s always wonderful to see weeks of hard work and passion come together in one night,â said Keara McGraw, SVP Program Director. âEvery organization has worked so hard and it’s amazing to be able to share their work with our community.
Hollaway called the program Intensive and said it took some time to process all the information and lessons she received, but in the week leading up to the competition the process became clear.
âThe education of it all came at the same time, and last week it was like ‘this is why’,â she said. âIt makes sense – that’s why I learned this. “
Hollaway said learning to express your passion and engage with listeners was especially helpful, as was learning how to convey metrics and measure your impact in the community. She said the experience would not only help her increase funding for Cultured Books, but also make her a better partner to collaborate with other organizations.
âWhat this means for the Cultured Books Literary Foundation (CBLF) is that we are sure of what we want, how we want to do it, and then that our partnerships and collaborations advance our mission,â Hollaway said.
The $ 15,000 unrestricted grant will help create these new partnerships and collaborations.
Holloway launches the Family Literacy Engagement Survey, in partnership with Shaping the Early Mind and Barbershop Book Club. Together, they will explore areas of southern St. Petersburg that are home to large populations of their target audience, including Jordan Park, Childs Park, Bethel Heights, and Coquina Key. The goal is to learn what barriers prevent families hesitant about literacy from engaging in reading activities. This information will then be used to better support the extracurricular activities of these families.
The funding will also support the residential literacy program. Hollaway will use local artists from all media to run workshops, and the money will allow CBLF to provide children with art materials and workshops, and to pay the artists who run the weekly events.
âMost of our workshops, when people from the community come to lead them, it really inspires the kids to learn more about the different members of the community, their professions and their backgrounds,â she explained.
Hollaway is grateful for the guidance and support she received inside and outside of the classroom from McGraw and her program mentor Karen Chassin, Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Foundation.
âThey were just really supportive of me making sure I had all the resources to prepare myself not only to present but also to be successful in the long term in the nonprofit world,â Hollaway said. “I also appreciate that they value each nonprofit as its own unique organization, and they are not trying to make you something that you are not.”