Skills for the 21st Century

Catapult: Helping Diverse Businesses Use Innovation to Solve Critical Challenges

Many diverse business owners are looking for help to stay competitive and increase sales and revenue. As part of our mission to help people prepare for the jobs of tomorrow today and help our communities grow and thrive, Capital One’s Supplier Diversity team created Catapult, an innovative development program designed to support and develop certified diverse businesses.

“We feel a real responsibility to close the digital divide and help diverse businesses where possible,” says Jim Gorzalski, Chief Procurement Officer at Capital One. “Through this program, we are leveraging Capital One's expertise to provide in depth training in our facilities to assist these diverse business leaders in learning the skills that will help broaden their competencies and allow them to develop innovative solutions to solve real business problems."

In association with our nonprofit partners, the program provides digital and innovative business expertise and education over a seven-month period. Companies apply to participate in a variety of instructional courses such as digital fundamentals, collaborative thinking workshops and one-on-one meetings with subject matter experts while also receiving feedback from a dedicated advisory board.

Each year since it began in 2017, Catapult culminates with a competitive event, where a panel of judges choose the business which pitched the best solution to their business challenge. The winning business receives a prize package which includes a cash grant for solution implementation.

Partnering with Women’s Business Enterprise National Council in 2018

In 2018, Capital One partnered with the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) in providing the program. With more than 14,000 certified women business enterprises, WBENC is the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in the U.S. and a leading advocate for women business owners and entrepreneurs. They believe diversity promotes innovation, opens doors, and creates partnerships that fuel the economy. Capital One has been a WBENC corporate partner for 13 years.

The focus was to equip participants with the knowledge and tools they need to innovate and disrupt within their business and, ultimately, their industry. Leveraging learnings from the program, these entrepreneurs were to design and develop a digital solution to a specific business challenge.

Eight women-owned businesses graduated from the 2018 program. Patricia Rodriguez-Christian, CEO of Texas Standard Commercial Construction , took top honors. Her winning proposal was to digitize a paper-based change order process in her commercial paint contracting company. The resulting product will increase productivity, job cost accountability, and her profit margin. "The Catapult program has taught me to consider a digital process and step back, analyze it, test it to see if it really is the right solution for the company. That process has been invaluable," she said.

Petria McElvey Pierre, founder and CEO of Precision Medical Billing, also graduated from the Catapult program in 2018 and put her learnings to work right away. “I’ve begun developing my software for ‘No Waiting Room’ and even though it’s in beta, we’re using it in four doctor’s offices, four home health agencies, and one micro six-bed hospital!”

In 2018, Catapult received the Profiles in Diversity Journal's 15th Annual Innovations in Diversity & Inclusion Award, and is featured in a WBENC blog. “This type of executive education and mentorship is critical in helping women-owned businesses grow and succeed,” says Pamela Prince-Eason, WBENC President and CEO. “Capital One is leading the way in not only providing business opportunities for women-owned businesses, but in developing them as suppliers through education and business coaching.”

Watch this brief video to learn more from the entrepreneurs and Capital One associates who were part of the 2018 program.

Partnering with the National Minority Supplier Development Council in 2017

In 2017, Capital One partnered with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) which advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members. The 10 participants were all certified minority business owners. Kimberly Ewalt, Principal/CEO, Charter Oak Environmental Services, Inc., participated in the program in 2017. She’s sharing with others what she learned during her experience with Catapult. “Charter Oak is sponsoring a University of Connecticut (UConn) Senior Design Project with the Computer Engineering department,” she explained. All engineering students must complete a senior design project to graduate from UConn. I have four fantastic people who are developing my software for the transportation and disposal division of Charter Oak. We will be hiring a software engineer/developer to become a part of the Charter Oak team to work with these students. Ideally, I would like to be able to hire at least one student to continue as an employee working on this product that we will use in our business with the end goal of licensing and selling.

“I am grateful to Capital One and Catapult because without all of you and the experience that I had, it would have never been in my realm of business planning to use innovation to build, grow and scale Charter Oak Environmental,” Ewalt added.

Partnering with five organizations in 2019

In 2019, Capital One is partnering with several third-party certifying organizations to market the Catapult program to their diverse businesses - NMSDC, WBENC, National Veteran Owned Business Association (NaVOBA), National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) and Disability:IN.

GROUP SHOT: 2018 Catapult participants and Capital One program managers in Capital One’s Garage in Plano, TX.
Petria McKelvey Pierre gives her pitch in the 2018 competition.
Elizabeth Cologne reviews her project timeline in her pitch in 2018.