Shelby Patrice doesn’t remember if she got any sleep overnight Tuesday.

She tossed and turned throughout the wee hours as she went over her Mavs Business Assist finals pitch in her sleep. 

Winning the $25,000 would be life-changing for her Budget University small business. 

Patrice didn’t know the how — but she knew the why

She wanted to become a beacon of hope for other Black families to set up generational wealth and legacy that will far outlast their lifetimes. 

All she needed was a chance. During the night, she envisioned what would happen if she won. 

Then, a new dawn arrived. 

“My blinds were open this morning, and I noticed the sunlight shining in,” Patrice explained. “All day, something just felt different. I had this sense of calm and peace. In my spirit, I just knew it would be a good day.” 

Her instincts were right on cue, and by night’s end, Patrice stood on stage holding a giant check, flanked by Dallas Mavs personnel and some of the top business leaders in the community.

After nearly a year of cohorts and modules with the Mavs Business Assist program, the native of Miami was crowned the inaugural champion of the finals competition pitch contest.

ShiftKey and Ford graciously provided the prize money awarded to the winners. 

“I want to thank the Dallas Mavericks for believing in me and allowing me to be picked for this program,” Patrice said. “The Mavs Business Assist program drastically changed my life, starting with day one. When it comes to marketing, terminology, legal documents, and business registration – I learned it all through this program, and that’s why Budget University is where it is today. I’m a woman who was adopted at 18 months into a great family, and my grandmother was my best friend. Today is the anniversary of her death, and everything has just come full circle. I feel amazing.”

The prize money will help her keep building a dream for Budget University — a minority-owned small business founded by Patrice to bring financial literacy and freedom to families around the country. 

Budget University is an accredited online school for middle and high school students, focusing uniquely on financial literacy.

The company also has resources and programs for adults to actively engage in and learn about the core principles of financial freedom. She believes it’s essential for youth to learn the principles of money from an early age to set them up for success. 

Patrice was one of eight diverse small business owners who competed in the Mavs’ pitch competition, and all the finalists were extraordinary. 

Lan Pham with DPC Health was the runner-up and won a $15,000 prize.

“Lan’s dedication and active participation throughout the year have set her apart as a true contender,” said Teddy Graves with the Dallas Mavs. “Her presence at every business session and her role as an exhibitor at the semi-final competition underscore her exceptional work ethic. What truly resonates is her ability to link her business aspirations with her personal passion for family, a sentiment that resonates with us all. However, it’s her substantial growth over the course of the year that truly distinguishes her journey.”

Dallas Mavs governor Mark Cuban was on hand to give encouragement to all those attending, and Mavs CEO Cynt Marshall served as a judge.

The festive occasion was a culmination of a year that started with 100 participants who now have the backing of one of the most successful sports franchises in the world. 

The Dallas Mavericks partnered with The Lonely Entrepreneur to empower the business owners in the program with access to the support, tools and knowledge they need to succeed as part of the Mavs Business Assist program.

One of the MBA finalists, Keith Fluellen, will even see his cupcakes sold at the American Airlines Center this season. During a previous MBA pitch competition, Fluellen boldly asked Marshall about getting his treats sold in the arena.

The request paid off, and fans can purchase his cupcakes at four different spots around the arena.

Just last week, Fluellen Cupcakes opened its doors at a new location near the new PGA headquarters in Frisco. Keith said his decision to join the MBA program was the right one. 

“I saw that they were giving this opportunity to local businesses — and I needed to get the right people behind me to expand and grow my business,” Fluellen said. “It’s a great program. What the Mavericks are doing is they’re leveling the playing field.”


Cuban made a special appearance at Tuesday’s event and offered great words of wisdom to all the participants about navigating the complexities of being an entrepreneur.

“Run your business to make a profit,” Cuban shared. “Every month, you should do everything you possibly can to increase the cash in your bank account.” 

Secondly, he reminded the participants about the importance of trust. 

“Trust is everything,” Cuban shared. “It’s your most valuable asset. People are willing to pay $3 extra when they trust you.” 

He also stressed “loving your product or service so much” that it fuels a business owner to tell everyone about their passion. 

“You know, somebody once said to me what separates the United States of America from every other country in the world is deep down, every single person in this country wants to be an entrepreneur at some level,” he shared. “It may not be starting a company but coming up with an innovative idea that makes a better product or a better nonprofit. Whatever it is, everybody has it in them to be an entrepreneur. And that’s hopefully never going to change in this country. I don’t think it will because that’s who we are.” 

Cuban said 99.99% of people walk up to the line and stop. The 1% are the difference makers.

Success in business requires one to live with boldness, curiosity and adaptability.

Cuban says things might not happen the first time, but if you keep knocking, you’ll get through at some point.


Teddy Graves oversees the Mavs Business Assist program.

He says Patrice was a star from the beginning.

“Shelby stands as a shining example of determination and achievement,” Graves said. “In an astonishing feat, she conquered all 500 learning modules on The Lonely Entrepreneur software in just two short months. Throughout the year, Shelby fully embraced the ethos of the Mavs Business Assist program, seizing every available opportunity with tenacity and enthusiasm. Her compelling presentation during the finals left an indelible mark on the judges and the entire audience, showcasing her passion, vulnerability, and unwavering belief in her mission.”

Patrice plans to take her $25,000 prize winnings and use the funds to expand her marketing reach for Budget University. 

As she reflected on her journey Tuesday night, she realized every step, every challenge and every triumph has molded her into the successful entrepreneur she is today. 

It all began with a dream birthed during her life’s lowest moments.

Over the last few years, Patrice lost her grandmother and was furloughed as a flight attendant during the pandemic. She clawed her way out of the valley and learned about resilience and perseverance in the face of odds. 

She was born a survivor.

As a toddler, Patrice was given up for adoption and spent most of her teen years searching for understanding and meaning.

She believes everything can be traced back to finances.

More than likely, her birth mother didn’t have the means to raise and care for her. Then when planning for her grandmother’s funeral, she realized how important generational wealth and legacy is to leave behind. 

Now, she’s on a mission to bring financial hope to people. She wants to especially give minority families a fighting chance. 

“I read something that said millionaires are made during COVID, and that really stuck with me,” Patrice said. “I know this is going to be a billion-dollar company. Being furloughed was the worst thing that could happen to me, but it was the best thing because it created an amazing brand. From the start, I wanted to be committed and build my brand to run things and have my own. 

“As a Black woman, I’m tired of our people begging for money. It’s important for people who look like me to start planning for their futures now. We don’t know when our last day will be, and we need to set up our families for wealth and legacies to come. Budget University is personal to me. It’s much more than just a business.” 

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