NEWARK, Del. (November 27, 2023) – The Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation (PDFF) orchestrated a gathering of Delaware’s foremost innovators during its highly anticipated 9th annual Reinventing Delaware dinner on November 8. This year’s dinner, hosted for the first time at the STAR Tower’s Audion on the University of Delaware’s Newark campus, welcomed 100 thought leaders from across the state. The unique occasion served as a platform for these innovators to share bold ideas aimed at creating jobs and making Delaware a better place to live, work and raise a family. 

The 9th annual dinner marked the commencement of Reinventing Delaware 2024, an engaging program designed to catalyze innovation. This initiative provides a proven process for incubating and launching bold ideas. Notable successes from previous iterations include projects such as Zip Code Wilmington, Intern Delaware, The Warehouse, Wilmington Green Box, WilmInvest, NERDiT Now, TRIC Robotics, Pay for Success, Delaware Collective for Creative Economy, and most recently Spotlight Delaware, Zero Homelessness, #Move2Delaware, and the 2023 winning idea, First State Hydrogen.

Stephanie Johnnie, Executive Director of PDFF, expressed, “Our annual dinner provides a unique opportunity for community leaders and stakeholders to connect, collaborate, and bring forth bold, creative ideas. This year’s proposals were especially inspiring, ranging from addressing mental health inequities and developing a tech hub for youth, to bridging market gaps in federal funding for better access to Delaware companies.”

Kerriann Otaño’s idea to solidify Delaware as an engine of growth for the opera industry was voted by the participants as the top pitch of the evening. Her proposal focuses on creating an artist hub to attract more creatives to Delaware. Otaño’s engaging pitch, which included a sample of her remarkable vocals, highlighted how Delaware can capitalize on its cultural riches, including beautiful beaches, farmland, historical sites, and being home to the 11th oldest opera company in the nation.

A dedicated review committee selected five additional proposals to advance to the initial phase of the idea development process, featuring a customized strategic planning session. This session aims to bring clarity to the ideas, identify necessary resources, and create plans for action. 

The five additional semi-finalists include:

  • Laura Randa, CEO and Chair at Toivoa, who proposed a digital cognitive behavioral therapy program to address mental health inequities for people with disabilities.
  • Thais Greca, Project Manager at Vanguard, who proposed a certification and advancement program for teens in emerging technology.
  • George Frankel, Senior Business Liaison at the Delaware Workforce Development Board, who proposed a plan to ensure every high school student obtains valid identification to eliminate roadblocks into adulthood.
  • Vishal Patel, serial entrepreneur, who proposed integrating a new lifestyle model for children focused on social, mental, and physical health into school systems.
  • William Repetto, CEO at Repetto Writing Solutions, who proposed a plan to help Delaware companies increase the percentage of federal grant funding obtained within the state each year.

By year-end, the committee will narrow down the pool of ideas to identify finalists for the second phase of the idea development process. This phase includes a comprehensive suite of technical assistance over 4-6 months, valued at over $20,000 in consulting and capacity-building support. The winner, to be announced in spring 2024, will receive a cash prize to further advance their idea.

What this video to hear about the process from previous participants:

Reinventing Delaware 2024 is proudly sponsored by Barclays, Discover Bank, HORN Entrepreneurship University of Delaware, and Wilmington University. Sponsorship support goes beyond the dinner and plays a vital role in underwriting the dynamic idea development process. Sponsorship opportunities for the program are still open, offering a comprehensive marketing package and significant visibility for your company. To explore available opportunities, contact Stephanie Johnnie at [email protected] to explore available opportunities, or visit for more information about the program.