By Pafoua Yang

UPDATE: Two Minnesota businesses were among the winners of Meda’s fourth annual Million Dollar Challenge, the nation’s largest minority entrepreneur competition.

They were HercLéon, a company focused on making clothes and bed sheets out of material that actively stops and eliminates bacteria growth, and Seraph 7 Studios, a video game developer focused on creating change for communities of color. Both businesses received $200,000 in financing.

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“We had an incredible number of remarkable companies participate in the Meda Million Dollar Challenge this year, leaving all of us impressed and inspired,” said Alfredo Martel, CEO of Meda, in a statement. “As we continue to navigate past the pandemic into the new economy, the innovation and dedication from these entrepreneurs leaves me hopeful for the impact they will have on the economy and their community.”

The other winners in the competition were Bon AppeSweet, which won the top prize of $350,000, Slick Chick, which was the second-place prize of $250,000, and FitnesCity, which walked away with $200,000.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A dozen entrepreneurs have advanced to the finals of the nation’s largest minority entrepreneur competition.

The Million Dollar Challenge is a Shark Tank-style contest for businesses of color. It’s the fourth year Metropolitan Economic Development Agency (MEDA) has put on the event.

This year, four of the finalists are from Minnesota – including Wenceslaus Muenyi. More than 200 entrepreneurs applied for the competition.

Muenyi is the founder of HercLèon, a company focused on making clothes and bed sheets out of material that actively stops and eliminates bacteria growth.

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“We design things for each group of people based on their bodies and what they need,” said Muenyi. “I started to think like why do my clothes smell bad? Why does anything smell bad? From that question I started studying biology and microbiology, human biology, textile and its functionality and how they work.”

Muenyi, along with the rest of the finalists, were at Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday morning making their final pitches to judges.

Uri Camarena, a business consultant with MEDA said their mission is to help ethnic entrepreneurs succeed. He said one finalist could get up to a million dollars. If multiple entrepreneurs are chosen, the investments will be divided.

Camarena said the challenge is about more than just giving away money, it’s about leveling the playing field for businesses of color.

“Only 3% of businesses in the country that are funded are BIPOC businesses. It’s an area we would like to be a part of and help,” said Camarena.

He added that many ethnic entrepreneurs don’t have the resources to get funding. In the last three years of the Million Dollar Challenge, 18 BIPOC businesses from around the country received financial awards, totaling $3.8 million.

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You can find out the winner Tuesday night on the MEDA website.

Pafoua Yang