Author Archive

February Qualification Grant Awarded to Don’t Forget The List

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

February marked another exciting and competitive month. Today, though, we’re thrilled to announce the 2nd Qualification Grant recipient of 2018 — Lisa Buie, Co-Founder of Don’t Forget The List.

DFTL is a unique company that specializes in planning Surprise Travel, Mystery Group Tours and Bucket List Tours. Lisa shares much more in our interview below.

​WN: ​Share the story of how Don’t Forget The List came about

LB: We first had the idea for our unique travel company at a moment in our lives when we were stressed out from the daily grind. We wanted to go somewhere, but didn’t know where, so we threw a dart at a map and set out on a weekend adventure. After recovering from a spontaneous road trip involving The Mothman, a haunted hotel in West Virginia, a dead cave and an epic horseback ride into the mountains of Kentucky, the light bulb lit and we decided we HAD to plan trips like this for other people.  The idea has grown and developed to now include group Mystery Tours as well.

The same spontaneous trip inspired us to start a yearly Bucket List of items that we add to and check off every year.  Our yearly Bucket Lists include items like skydiving, swimming with sharks and performing at an open mic night.  We believe that if you focus too much on the destination you miss the ride, and our company has been developed around inspiring others to have the same experiences.  “The List” in our company name refers to all of our Bucket Lists!

Our adventurous travelers have told us that waiting to know where they are going is one of the best parts, which tells us we are on the right track

The full story of our first epic trip can be found on our blog.

WN: Where are some destinations you’ve worked with and how do you decide on those destinations?

LB: While we don’t want to give away all our surprises, we can say that we love to craft unique surprise experiences for individual travelers as well as our group tours! We look for off the beaten path and unique locations to pleasantly surprise our customers.  For example, imagine sleeping in a luxury treehouse or snowmobiling to Old Faithful!  We meet with Destination Managers and Tour Suppliers from across the country to identify and select the places we send our travelers.  These colleagues ensure the locations and activities we send our customers to live up to our high standards.

WN: How do you strive to separate Don’t Forget The List from market competition?

LB: While offering Surprise Travel and Mystery Tours sets us apart, we also have other pretty awesome reasons we stand apart from our competition.

We love our amazing planet and want to ensure it is healthy for the next generation to explore.  Because we know the travel industry is inherently “dirty”, with all the carbon emissions involved in car, bus, train and air travel, we purchase carbon offsets for all of our trips, so our customers can rest assured that when they travel with us all they leave behind are their own footprints!  We work with a company called TerraPass that helps us offset the carbon footprint from each of our trips by investing in various earth-friendly projects and companies.  The amount we invest is calculated by the number of miles our busses and individual customers travel.

We are also dedicated to working with local small businesses in the geographical areas we visit. We aim to book accommodations at highly recommended local hotels or bed and breakfasts, and always supply travelers with a list of recommended local restaurants, retailers and entertainment venues to visit during their stay.

We also strive to make every trip Bucket List worthy.  While we are not the only company that offers Surprise Travel, we are the only one that custom creates journeys designed to ensure our customers don’t forget their Bucket Lists!  We strive to make sure our travelers are still sharing their epic experiences with their friends and family years after they travel with us.

WN: What are your plans for the grant funds?

LB: We have some lofty goals!  With a successful marketing campaign, we believe we can inspire a large audience of customers to live their lives fully and in the moment by restoring their sense of adventure through Surprise Travel and Mystery Tours.

Many of our colleagues believe Surprise Travel is the key to reaching the next generation of travelers. We want to be a major player in bridging the gap between millennials and baby boomers, and in boosting the travel industry as a whole.

Also, with some development and partnerships we plan on establishing a non-profit charity to fulfill the Bucket List items of terminally ill adults.

As a startup, reaching the public has been our greatest challenge by far.  Since gaining exposure is our biggest hurdle and as a startup we have limited funds, the qualifying grant we just received would be dedicated to marketing and promotions.  The money will help us get directly in front of potential customers at some larger travel shows as well as allow us to sponsor Surprise Travel trips for promotional events.  It will also help with printing expenses, video production and paid advertisements.

While the grant funds are a major benefit, the PR boost we receive from winning the grant is, in itself, super valuable!  Since exposure is what we need most, we are super excited and grateful to have been chosen for the qualifying grant and look forward to competing for the additional Amber Grant as well.

WN: Share some advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur

LB: Go For It, Girl! 

My business partner Holly and I came to the realization that while we were working hard for other organizations and corporations, we were spending our valuable time and resources working towards other people’s visions, not our own.  Never doubt your greatness and ability to realize your dreams!  Take one day, one task at a time and before you know it your ideas that seem huge and crazy may one day set you up to inspire and transform your whole industry.

2018 February Qualification Grant Finalists

Friday, March 2nd, 2018
Congratulations to our 5 finalists for the 2018 February Qualification Grant. We’ll announce the winner next week…


Ziva Wearables

Heloise Taillet



DC Design Tours

Carolyn Muraskin




YERU STEM Education

Shaakira Hardy



Vie Cycle

Sylvie Froncek



Don’t Forget The List

Lisa Buie


January Qualification Grant Awarded to Madison Eats Food Tours

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Last week, we revealed our January Grant finalists. After much deliberation, we’re thrilled to announce the recipient — Otehlia Cassidy, Founder of Madison Eats Food Tours.

Congratulations to Otehlia and each of the finalists. A special thanks to Otehlia for taking the time to respond to our interview questions…

Madison Eats

WN: What drove you to create Madison Eats Food Tours?

OC: I have always felt driven and inspired by connecting with people, especially people of diverse backgrounds. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to explore the world. I have been fortunate to travel all over the world, including places that many tourists don’t go and where I couldn’t speak the language – indigenous villages in the rainforest of Guyana, remote villages in Mali, West Africa or even towns in South America or Europe.

Even if you don’t speak the same language or have the same beliefs, you can share a meal. Eating and cooking are universal and offer a place for joy and conversation, appreciation and connection to each other. I wanted to build those relationships at home. I wanted to learn about the people in my community and to bring people together around food — who doesn’t love to eat?! Even here in Madison, where I have lived for 20 years, starting a food tour company has allowed me to develop meaningful connections within my community, and support our local economy — all while eating delicious food. It’s a great job!

WN: Some people might be unaware of all of the culinary offerings within Madison. Give us a sample of what one might experience in your city.

OC: Madison has been underrated as a food city for some time, but that is rapidly changing. We have a network of incredible chefs, including Tory Miller, who won the Iron Chef Showdown against Bobby Flay. Madison is also home to a diversity of food producers — we are home to the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country.

Chefs have immigrated here from all over the world, including a large number from Thailand and Laos. What this means is that our food scene is very diverse with quality ingredients and people who truly care about food.

We boast a top notch farm to table scene, and also family run restaurants such as Lao Lan Xang, a restaurant owned by Bounyang Inthachith, who immigrated here from Laos almost 30 years ago. She fled Laos with her 4 children after the Vietnam war. After arriving in snowy Wisconsin, speaking no English, she says that her youngest son cried for rice. She started cooking for him and soon was cooking for other people. Now her restaurant is one of the most popular in Madison. She in turn supports Hmong farmers, who fled the same war. On our food tours we visit these restaurants and learn about the stories of the chefs and owners, forging connections and exploring our community while enjoying a great meal!

WN: How have you marketed the business? What avenues have been most successful?

OC: I have been uncertain about the best marketing strategy. Honestly, that is my weakness. This year I am working with professionals to help work on SEO and developing ad campaigns on different platforms. I plan to put more effort and money into marketing this year as I plan to grow the company. Much of my marketing has been Facebook, Instagram, and my website, as well as word of mouth and Trip Advisor, where we are rated the #1 food tour in Madison! Other people vouching for your product is the best advertising.

WN: What are your goals for the year ahead, and how can the grant money help you reach them?

OC: As I mentioned, marketing has always been daunting to me. I plan to use the money to market more strategically. I will direct market to companies. I have already met with a web designer to make my site mobile friendly and to help develop ads for social media. I also want to grow what I offer and continue to directly support the diverse food producers in our community through developing new tours such as a farmers’ market tour, and tours that directly support minority populations, such as Black and Latino owned business, women and LGBT owned businesses.

WN: Share some advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur.

OC: I have a few mantras that I rotate through my day. As women, we have to believe that we are worthy. You are worthy! It’s easier to be fearful and sit in our safe space that to risk failure or uncertainty, but take the risk, because all you have to lose is you. I firmly believe in a vision board/daily affirmations where the thoughts and wording are key. Rather than saying “I want” or “I will” say it as if it is happening already. “I own a successful food tour company and sell over 3000 tickets a year.” Your words are powerful. And so are you.

2018 January Qualification Grant Finalists

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Congratulations to the 5 finalists for the 2018 January Qualification Grant

PearBerry Development

Rebecca Walton



Snow Day Productions

Julie Drew



Madison Eats Food Tours

Otehlia Cassidy



Wildflower Learning Community

Shelley Welch-Riselvato



LifeFlo Ergonomics

Courtney Mitchell


December Qualification Grant Awarded to Imagiread

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Recently, we shared our December Grant finalists.

Today, we’re here to share the recipient of that Qualification Grant — Tiffany Rachann, Founder of Imagiread.

Continue on to read about how she’s impacting the lives of young students.

WN: What purpose does Imagiread serve and what drove you to start the business?

TR: Imagiread was born of out of my love for children’s literature and my passion for education. It started off as a bit of a hobby, happening shortly after I’d wrote and self-published my first children’s book entitled “It’s Water Time, Ma!”. The book is based on the real-life events of my family, where we esteem and revere water experiences in hopes to communicate how valuable the resource is. One day during a reading of the book at a friend’s Lemonade Day event, the director of a prominent educational organization approached me and asked if I would consider co-writing a S.T.E.M based literacy curriculum based on my book. I was excited to explore the opportunity as I’d previously written literacy curriculum for a youth advocacy and mentoring program. That one yes opened up the door to a world of imaginative possibilities.

Immediately after the program was implemented, I noted the reading struggles of many of the program participants. I reconsidered my goal of wanting to implore families to read together for fun and engagement and shifted my attention towards empowering families to strengthen their literacy fluency for fun and engagement. That meant taking a look at what literacy habits are for a variety of families and why. Which led me to conduct my own research.

I learned first hand through a number of experiments, community events, book giveaways and book readings what the challenges were and how they played a part in functional illiteracy as a whole. By in large, I started to analyze how literacy, and the access to quality programming, is a cultural challenge more than an “academic” one. I recognized the need for specialized programming that’s socially responsible, and both culturally authentic and appropriate thereby asserting relativity for all members involved.

I set out to develop my own proprietary program using what I’d learned and am happy to say that I’ve served approximately 725 children to date with Imagiread’s programming. That doesn’t include hundreds of children and families I’ve worked with through library and community partnerships. I’m encouraged to continue to support the community with custom programming and support. There is nothing like seeing a child make literacy connections as a result of interaction you’ve had with them. To have that impact extend to families and communities is invaluable.

WN: What type of response have you received from schools and parents?

TR: To date, I’m still shocked when I see a parent out and about who recognizes me from a program. I’ve had parents praise me for the work Imagiread does, citing how difficult it’d been getting their son/daughter to take an interest in reading before being incorporated. I’ve had dozens of parents inbox me sharing their child’s love for It’s Water Time, Ma! and taking the oath to be more hydrated while conserving water. I’ve had community organizations invite me to speak to their student body and have co-hosted a number of interactive author visits for child care centers and head start programs. Imagiread has been recognized for the programming by two of the local library systems and one of the largest schools districts here in Houston.

WN: What are your plans for the grant money?

TR: Imagiread is a one-woman show. To compensate for the opportunity to conduct thorough research by partnering with organizations and offering reduced-fee programming to schools that meet the criteria, I usually work two part-time jobs to support the company.

At the end of August, Hurricane Harvey devastated thousands of Houstonians leaving the city to rebuild what officials say will take years. Imagiread was effected and lost working equipment, books, inventory and teaching supplies. In addition to replacing some of what was lost, I’ll also be able to invest in a comprehensive digital marketing software tool that will automate the programs I’ve created so that they are available online with a complementary mobile app. Investing in such will not only streamline the research endeavors but also afford opportunities to sell more books and publish three new books that I’m working on. One is a how-to guide for parents; the second is a second practice workbook for kids (I currently have the first out already) and the third being a professional development resource for teachers and child care directors.

WN: Share some advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur

TR: Know Thyself girlfriend! Imagiread is my lifelong dream. I can’t think of a thing that makes me happier than reading with children. Understanding that has helped me to savor that feeling when things have gotten super rough, and I couldn’t afford basic necessities. I understood that through it all that I’d found my mission and my purpose but not without having to get to know who I am and what my expectations for being an entrepreneur, writer, educator and single mom were. Know that your skills are deserving of an opportunity to make a positive impact. Believe in your dreams with all of your heart; creating a life we are proud to live is what this whole thing is about. Find a support circle that shares the same values and learn to create fulfilling relationships with your network — it’ll benefit everyone involved.

Lastly, continue to seek. Life has a way of answering your prayers. Invest in your personal and professional growth while taking care of yourself so that you can progress with ease. Balance is the key. Oh and lastly-don’t be so hard on yourself. Perfection is what you believe it to be.

WN: If you have anything else to share, please do!

TR: Sure thing! I read an article just a few months ago about how many women feel as if they could accomplish more if they had professional mentors. I remember thinking how I, too, wish I had a female mentor to really connect to. Being chosen for the December 2018 qualifying grant is what I believe a win-win dream come true. Not one but a group of women championing for the success of women everywhere is indescribable. I’m so grateful to be a part. Thank you so much again!

***All the best to Tiffany as she continues her journey with Imagiread.  Remember that we award at least 1 grant each month.  If you’re interested in applying, get started today.

2017 December Qualification Grant Finalists

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018


Tiffany Rachann McMiller



Kids at Risk for Diabetes

Julie Stelting



Luxury Holidays

Jerelyn Mayer



Double Mission

Jaimie Healey



Lactation Link

Lindsey Shipley