Author Archive

December Amber Grant Awarded to Sustainable Snacks

Friday, January 10th, 2020

On Sunday, we announced five December Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re delighted to share the $4,000 recipient and the qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Rebecca Scott, Founder of Sustainable Snacks. Below, Rebecca dishes on her product, shares her words of wisdom for other female entrepreneurs, and much more.

WN: What led you to create Sustainable Snacks?

RS: I was diagnosed with Lupus in college and learned to manage my condition by following a plant-based diet. I also worked for public health nutrition programs where I supported clients on improving their health outcomes by incorporating more whole, plant-based foods.

I decided to translate my personal and professional experience to the snack industry, as Americans are now snacking between 4-6 times each day and flavor is the number one driver when grabbing a snack on the go.

Sustainable Snacks develops delicious, portable snacks that lead with flavor yet are made from wholesome, plant-based ingredients. We believe you should never have to compromise on flavor when making a healthy choice!

We also believe everybody deserves access to healthy snacks. To this end, we make our products available at a reduced price point in our home community, the Bronx; and partner with schools and local CBOs to lead community-based nutrition workshops.

WN: What was your biggest hurdle when you started the business? How did you persevere?

RS: I started out by sampling Sustainable Snacks at pop-up markets and food festivals around New York City. I always received enthusiastic feedback on the product line and brand; so, I assumed it would be relatively straightforward to translate my grassroots traction onto supermarket shelves.

I learned very early on that the grocery industry is complex and requires more than a great product to succeed. After closing some initial deals with small, local accounts, I realized I would not be able to grow in the way I envisioned without more formally developing the business infrastructure and growth plan to scale.

I found some great advisors and successful founders in my space who shared industry insights and what operational steps I needed to put in place to grow. I also worked with a couple of business focused non-profits who helped me create a thoughtful growth plan that maps out how we will achieve national distribution.

WN: How do you differentiate in a competitive space?

RS: Our flagship line of Chocolate Superfood Snacks are made from bites of berries, nuts, spices and maple syrup sweetened dark chocolate. Our snacks offer bold flavors, a unique crunchy and chewy texture, plant-based protein, Omega 3s and fiber.

The flavor profiles of our line of Superfood Snacks are more complex than our competitors: we add various spices along with (no-sugar- added) fruits, nuts and dark chocolate. Our chocolate is also soy and dairy free; and sweetened with whole maple syrup.

We also start with a base of inclusions and add a touch of dark chocolate, which serves as the glue that binds our other ingredients. As such, our texture is crunchy and chewy, not heavily incorporated or brittle, like our competitors; and significantly less sweet.

Lastly, we are 100% refined sugar free. Our chocolate is sweetened with Grade A, whole maple syrup. There is currently no other dark chocolate product on the market sweetened in this way. In short, we offer bolder flavors, unique “crunchy + chewy” textures, sweeten with maple, and are 100% clean; and this combination of attributes is what significantly sets us apart.

Sustainable Snacks are:

WN: What are your plans for future growth?

RS: We are in the process of scaling our flagship line of Chocolate Superfood Snacks. Once we achieve national distribution of this product, we will begin to introduce other delicious, plant-based, grab-and-go snack products. Our goal is to build Sustainable Snacks into a thoughtful natural foods powerhouse with many different, wholesome products under this umbrella.

We also plan to expand our community efforts as the company grows, offering discounted pricing and nutrition education in other underserved areas.

WN: Share some advice you’d give an aspiring female entrepreneur.

RS: A really wise entrepreneur once told me that, in business, the first “no” means, “nice to meet you, now we’re having a conversation.” This piece of wisdom  could not be more true. It is extremely important to be tenacious and nimble as an entrepreneur. As a start-up founder, and particularly as a female, you will be underestimated and told “no” the first time you approach new customers. However, by creatively following-up and finding other ways to get in touch, you will find it is possible to turn a “no” into a “yes.” Many of  the milestones I have achieved for Sustainable Snacks have come after multiple attempts to open a conversation. In business, persistence pays off!

December 2019 Amber Grant Finalists

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Happy New Year, everyone.

We’re writing to share 5 finalists for the $4,000 December Amber Grant. The recipient will be the first of 12 finalists for the 2020 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).

Expect the December grant recipient to be announced within a week. For now, congratulations to:

Athena’s Voice

Website

 

Sustainable Snacks

Website

 

The Peri Parcel

Website

 

Open Parachute

Website

 

Iambic Health

(No website)

2019 Year-End Amber Grant Awarded to Lisse Shave

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

WomensNet, which is committed to supporting and funding women-owned businesses, is pleased to announce the recipient of its annual $25,000 Amber Grant for Women.

The recipient of the grant for 2019 is Lisse Shave Inc., founded and owned by Amy Mitchell. Lisse Shave, based in Vancouver, Canada, manufactures and markets safety razors for women.

The annual Amber Grant is awarded to one of the previous 12 monthly Amber Grant recipients. Lisse Shave was the October 2019 honoree.

In learning of her win, Mitchell said, “In terms of what this will mean for Lisse, it’s hard to put into words and I’ve been struggling to articulate it all day! I haven’t stopped smiling since receiving the phone call yesterday. The Amber Grant will now give me the opportunity to invest in the growth of my business beyond what I thought was ever possible. Up until now I’ve self-funded the company and I have had an incredibly limited budget. I will now be able to put my marketing plan into motion, expand my product line, and therefore convert more folks to plastic-free shaving! But more importantly, this award has given me confidence that I am on the right track. Working on my own is difficult, and I often question myself whether I’m doing the right thing. I just want to thank the voting board for their confidence in me and I will ensure I put this financial support to drive the success of Lisse.”

A special congratulations to Amy and the 11 other finalists: Access Trax, The New Norm, LimeLoop, TheraV, Atlanta Music Education, Synaptek, RoHo, Love Again Local, Kateboards, Sugarless and Noomi.

The Amber Grant Foundation began in 1998, launched in conjunction with the entrepreneurial community for women. Managed by WomensNet, the foundation was set up with one goal in mind: to honor the memory of a very special young woman — Amber Wigdahl — who died at just 19 years old.

Amber Grants make it possible for other women to achieve the dreams that Amber never had a chance to pursue.

The 2020 year-end Amber Grant recipient will be announced in December, 2020.

November Amber Grant Awarded to Noomi

Monday, December 9th, 2019

Last week, we posted 5 Amber Grant finalists for November. Today, we’re writing to share the recipient and the final qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Krystina Murawski, Founder of Noomi. Inside our interview, you’ll read about Krystina’s business and what makes it unique while learning her advice for fellow business owners.

WN: What is Noomi, and what motivated you to create the brand?

KM: Noomi® [new-me] is an artisan producer of organic small batch peanut butter, lifestyle brand, and mindset that empowers people to create their best life. I founded Noomi in April 2018 with a vision to inspire people to pursue what they are passionate about and find their “new me.” Our signature blend of organic peanut butter is the Specialty Food Association’s 2019 “New Product” sofi™️ Award winner in the Nut Butter, Seed Butter category.

It all started with a text message from my college best friend, Chelsea, in January 2018. She randomly told me she wanted to open up her own food truck. I said, ‘I’ve been wanting to jar and sell my own peanut butter.’ We decided to encourage and hold each other accountable, which was really motivating. A few weeks later, I texted her to see how it was going, and let her know that I was about 45 batches deep. The rest is history.

I came home every night and overworked my food processor for three months straight. I bought peanuts from every grocery store to try and jar the taste of what peanut butter embodied to me that perfect, natural balance of sweet and salty. By April, I had found my recipe and formed Noomi LLC. I used to joke in the beginning and say, ‘What do I need to do-make 100 batches?’ And funny enough, it was my 100th batch that was ‘the one.’ Then in July, I sold my first jar.

Through every interaction, we strive to deliver memorable brand experiences–ones that start with the dazzling “noo” taste of Noomi peanut butter, and transcend into moments that inspire others to actively follow their passions and dreams. It’s just about believing that doing what you love is possible, and having the courage to take that first step. And while peanut butter is the essence of who we are, we’re also dedicated to carrying out our mission to build meaningful relationships through quality food, as we live to inspire and aspire to grow.

WN: How are you differentiating from the competition in this competitive space?

KM: Our signature blend of organic peanut butter is hand-made with just five ingredients and sweetened with dates! It contains: organic dry roasted peanuts, organic dates, grapeseed oil, peanut oil and Atlantic sea salt. When you think Noomi, think “nutritious.” It’s a no “nutsense” product. Noomi peanut butter does not contain any artificial sweeteners, refined or added sugar; hydrogenated vegetable oils; or palm oil. We pride ourselves on the absence of these types of sugars and oils as it helps us create a more sustainable peanut butter and deliver on the high-quality, clean label products we promise to customers.

Compared to traditional all natural and organic nut butters, Noomi peanut butter is more nutritionally-balanced; it’s also a minimal separation product that’s easy to stir. We use simple ingredients that are better for our customers and the environment. The result is a dazzling new taste and peanut butter experience for customers who try the product. Hearing the response to that first spoonful is never just “okay” or “ehh” or “I don’t like this.” It’s “WOW!” and “I LOVE THIS!” and “I NEED a jar.” For me, it’s reassuring, encouraging, and a meaningful reminder of why I have to keep building the Noomi name.

When I tell people about Noomi, they always say that peanut butter is such a crowded and competitive space–so it’s really exciting that we found a way to differentiate ourselves on the shelves through taste, packaging aesthetic, and of course, our brand’s passion-driven vision and mission. Noomi has really changed the way people think about peanut butter, not just because of its incredibly unique flavor profile, but because of the memorable experience we create through the people who engage with our brand. And that’s where the real opportunity lies.

I am extremely confident in the product I’ve created–especially after the 100 recipes it took me to find “the one.” And that’s a huge part of the reason why I believe so much in the brand. I’ve developed a product that people love, and one that I want to continue to share with the world to inspire others to follow their dreams.

WN: What challenges have you faced during your time in business?

KM: I currently have a full-time job, so organic growth (pun-intended) has always been really important to me. However, with the way Noomi is growing, effectively balancing my full-time job with scaling the company has, at times, been challenging to manage. I have some really cool ideas for new products that I’m exploring, and I’m energized by all of the different ways I can possibly expand the product line. I also have some potential retail opportunities this year that could help take Noomi to the next level.

In addition to this, the financial component of starting a small business, and effectively running and scaling it, is a huge challenge. Couple this with the fact that my organic product is expensive and time-consuming to produce by hand, and it becomes an ongoing effort to ensure operational efficiency. When the costs are so high, it makes the question of Noomi’s profitability, and sustainability, very real. For example, while engaging a co-packer would help me scale the business, it’s a huge investment that comes with its own set of challenges-like finding a peanut-friendly facility that can make my product to all of the right specifications and support the volume I need at a cost I can afford.

I’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy this year to lowering my costs, in as many areas as possible: production, ingredients, and labor costs to name a few. The food business is a business of pennies and it really all adds up. Finding a way to navigate in between and around the traditional path is important. Think differently, think creatively, and you can find ways to operate more efficiently, and genuine people to help mentor and guide you along the way.

Being a one-woman owned and run small business presents new challenges every day; it’s all part of being an entrepreneur. But when pursuing Noomi full-time is the ultimate dream, it makes me push through the hard days with that much more determination to succeed. In these moments, I’m really reminded of how much Noomi means to me, and how much my passion, above all, has allowed me to believe and achieve. It’s not about if I’m ready to take the jump, it’s just a matter of when–and I’m confident I’ll know when the time is right for me.

WN: Share some advice you’d give an aspiring female entrepreneur.

KM: Ah, there are so many things! But here are my top three…

    1. One thing I learned is that you really don’t know what it’s like until you start. But if you love something as much as I love peanut butter, you’d be surprised how hard you’ll work to keep your dream alive. There are days where it can be tough, discouraging or exhausting, but that’s the reality of any business or job. Just follow your dreams and don’t give up.
    2. Say YES. Be open to every new door and new opportunity. You never know who you’ll meet and where it will lead you.
    3. Surround yourself with people who can mentor you, challenge you to be better, and push you; these are the people who will help you grow and succeed.

WN: If you have anything else to share, please do — this is your platform!

KM: I’m the type of person who gives 110% to everything I do and am dedicated to seeing Noomi grow and succeed in the specialty food industry. As a recent recipient of the 2019 Millennial of the Year Award, presented by Westfair Communications Inc., I know it’s only the beginning of what I am capable of achieving–with Noomi fueling all of these possibilities.

So stay nuts! Believe that your dreams are possible, and never let anything or anyone stop you from pursuing the things in life that you’re energized by and most passionate about…because that’s your “new me.”

The story behind Noomi, or any business, is the most exciting and interesting part. I would love for you to read “The story of Noomi” so you can see just how I brought my brand and vision to life! Let it encourage you; let it empower you; and let it inspire you to keep going!

November 2019 Amber Grant Finalists

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Hi everyone,

We’re here to share 5 finalists for the November Amber Grant. The recipient will join 11 businesses currently in the running for our year-end Amber Grant of $25,000, which will be announced this month.

Expect the November recipient to be announced within 7 days. For now, congratulations to:

Satchl

Website

Noomi

Website

 

Songbird Farm

Website

 

Cozy Escapes

Website

NOMⴷD + JULES

Website

October Amber Grant Awarded to Lisse Shave

Monday, November 11th, 2019

Last Monday, we posted 5 Amber Grant finalists for October. After much consideration, we’re writing to share the recipient and the 11th qualifier for the $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Amy Mitchell, Founder of Lisse Shave. Read on to learn about Amy’s product, how she’s giving back, and much more.

WN: What motivated you to create Lisse Shave?

AM: By 2050 it’s predicted there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, which is devastating! I’ve always been conscious of lowering my plastic footprint and that’s when I discovered the world of safety razors. Right now over 2 billion plastic razors are dumped into landfills and oceans every year and that’s just from the US alone. The big money-making corporations don’t want you to know about the alternative way of shaving (ie. with a Safety Razor) because it will hurt their pockets. Safety razors are made completely of metal and the blades are made from 100% stainless steel (20 times cheaper than multi-blade cartridges!) so everything is 100% recyclable, no plastic in sight! Not only that, but companies don’t legally need to disclose the ingredients in those moisturizing strips. They are loaded with toxic chemicals, PEGs, and ingredients on PETA’s watch list for animal cruelty. These are usually the culprits behind your shaving irritation, not the blade itself!

So I made the switch to a safety razor and couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it sooner. Not only are they better for the environment but they offer a closer shave with less irritation and limit ingrown hairs. Traditionally, safety razors have been targeted towards men and around 98% of my girlfriends had no idea what a safety razor was. So I set out to create a brand to position them differently and help educate and empower women to make better choices for their bodies. And so, Lisse Shave was born!

WN: Share your core values

AM: Commitment to sustainability: This is incredibly important to me and this means living my values even behind the scenes. ‘Sustainable’ should never just be a marketing slogan. Everything even down to our packaging is 100% compostable, recyclable, or reusable. We’ve even rocked a typo on our razor boxes as I refuse to recycle a thousand boxes in the name of perfection. I shared the story with our customers and they loved it!

Female empowerment: We gotta lift each other up! I’ve never been interested in ‘just selling products’. My true motivation comes from building a long-lasting brand that shares knowledge and adds value across a variety of topics that impact women.

Quality and clean products: If you can’t understand the ingredients list then you shouldn’t be putting it on your body. I am committed to delivering simple, clean, and effective products free from any of the nasties. And quality, that goes without saying! Not all safety razors are made equally. I want my customers to have the best shaving experience. Think of it less like a razor and more like a piece of jewelry on your countertop!

WN: What differentiates your product from others in the space? 

AM: Compared to other safety razor companies I feel there are 3 key areas where Lisse Shave is different:

  1. I’m a big believer that business should be used as a force for good which is why 2% of gross razor sales go straight to Femme International who empowers young women through health and menstrual education in East Africa. Femme equip girls with the supplies and confidence they need so they’ll never have to skip school because of a period ever again.
  2. Being cruelty-free was incredibly important to me. I’m proud to be Leaping Bunny certified which is the only certification that verifies the entire supply chain for animal testing.
  3. Community! I have built a very engaged community that are actively involved in our design process for our 2.0 razor, so we are building something together which is truly exciting.

WN: Where are you reaching your target market?

AM: I didn’t have a marketing budget so I organically grew my email list to over 1k pre-launch and I had around a 10% conversion on launch day on our website. Right now our customers are mainly finding us through Instagram, organic search and referrals.

WN: Share some advice you’d give an aspiring female entrepreneur.

AM: These are the 3 things I like to remind my friends of:

  1. Just start somewhere! It’s incredibly overwhelming starting a business, especially when you’re on your own. You’re going to be thrown into things that make you feel uncomfortable or that you have no idea how to accomplish but as long as you take small steps each day and keep chipping away, all of a sudden you’ll find yourself with something ready to launch.
  2. Drop the idea of perfection — this will seriously hold you back! If you wait until your website is ‘perfect’ or the timing is ‘just right’ you will never launch. Everything in your business is a constant journey and evolution. So just start somewhere then test, learn, optimize, and repeat.
  3. Recognize the imposter syndrome. Yes, you are good enough!

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

AM: Thank you again to WomensNet for believing in my business so far. It’s still a surreal sensation when someone else believes in your dreams, it starts to feel like a reality! I genuinely love connecting with other women and I’m more than happy to offer advice or moral support to anyone in a similar situation.  So feel free to look me up and drop me a line!