Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

October Qualification Grant Awarded to WiGo Trips

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Congratulations to our October Qualification Grant finalists. Once again, this community has made our monthly decisions extremely difficult.  And we’re so appreciative.

A special congratulations to the recipient of the October Qualification Grant, Jaqui McCarthy, Founder/CEO of  WiGo Trips.

Jaqui took some time to respond to our interview via video.  Her responses are available in text form as well.

If you’re interested in getting involved with WiGo Trips, join them for beta.

WN: What drove you to create WiGo Trips?

JM: In 2015, I was planning a trip to Paris, France. I posted about it on a group community on Facebook. I said, “Hey, does anyone want to go to Paris with me?” I had several people who said “Yeah, we want to go.” Six of us ended up going and we had the most incredible time ever.

One of the participants who joined us has a condition called cerebral palsy, and it made walking through the streets of Paris difficult. When we got back to the US he called me up and said, “I want to say thank you so much for putting this trip together. If it wasn’t for you and you all treating me like family I wouldn’t of had the experience I had. Thank you.” That in itself was not the reason we created WiGo Trips, but that had redefined what it meaned to travel for me. Everything. It just blew me away.

Fast forward four months and I was laid off from my full time job. So I thought ‘this will be my opportunity… I will go out into the world and do photo shoots… it will be amazing and that is how I will make my living.’

Well, life had other plans for me. I started my masters in research psychology, and I had discovered some new information. It sent me on an existential breakdown, and it put me on a crazy trajectory trying to find meaning and purpose in a world I didn’t think had any anymore. So what did I do? I traveled.

I started seeing these interactions, these trajectories happen between people that have never met before. And I knew right then that whatever that was I needed to create more of it. It wasn’t going to be enough to create a trip here or there — I had to create something that was going to set the whole world free.

Trying to figure out this whole thing, I realized the importance of connections. When we are done, when we are all gone… what’s going to be left behind? Memories that we created and the people that we made those memories with. That’s how we are going to live on, and so the idea for WiGo Trips came to be from there.

I thought: ‘What if we create this platform, this place… where other travelers, like myself, are able to create these trips and post them on a marketplace?’ Other travelers are able to see the trips and request to request that trip with me, and experience it with me, and I can make a living doing that. Engaging with other people, engaging with them, and showing them different parts of the world…

WN: Discuss the process and timeline of developing the app

JM: This started last year, and it’s been quite the process. I am not a technical founder, but I did end up teaching myself how to code along the way. I created the first and second prototype.

I’ve been lucky and fortunate enough to find my cofounder Lonnie Laub, who has been leading our technology build with our developers. He’s just been an absolutely incredible business partner to have on board.

WN: Where are your marketing efforts focused?

JM: Our marketing efforts are completely gross rooted. Right now we have a few hundred beta testers. We were actually able to acquire them through spending $50.

The overall approach is social media, engagement and interacting with our fellow travelers.

WN: How will you monetize the business?

JM: WiGo Trips is what’s called a double sided platform, so our travelers represent both the demand side and the supply side. Travelers who create trips are able post the trips — the supply side. On the demand side, other travelers from around the wold who are looking for unique and novel trips can see those trips, and request to join them. The organizer approves, and then they would pay the organizer on the platform and pay a fee on top of what the organizer asks.

When a traveler sees a trip, they are going to see a bundled price with the organizers asking price, which we do not control. (It’s completely controlled by the organizer.) The percentage is how we make money.

WN: What are your plans for the grant money?

JM: The grant funds will go to app development.

 

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

JM: Own your inner alpha. You are in this startup journey for a reason… and that’s because you are a mission-driven woman. Don’t ever be ashamed of that. Don’t ever settle for anything less than that. Own it, and wear it with pride.

September Qualification Grant Awarded To Omiga

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Recently, we unveiled our Qualification Grant Finalists for September.

Today, we’re excited to announce our $1,000 grant recipient –Karen Cohen, Founder of Omiga.

Read on to learn about Karen’s inspiring mission and company.

WN: How did Omiga come to fruition?

Karen: 4 years ago, I received the phone call that every parent fears. My daughter was in the hospital. She’d been involved in a car accident. Worse, she was in police custody. She’d been out drinking all evening with friends and drove home…or tried to. Luckily, she survived and to put the icing on the cake, she no longer drinks. We were fortunate. Too many others aren’t as lucky. The statistics surrounding drunk and drugged driving are astounding.

As a parent of an adult child, I felt powerless. I hadn’t been able to protect her. What I had was the belief that I had to do something, because whatever was being done wasn’t working.

At the same time that my daughter had her accident, laws were being passed all over the country allowing use of medical and recreational marijuana. I knew this would only exacerbate the problem. Our brains function differently under the influence. We’re NOT thinking about consequences of our actions. I knew that if I were going to protect my children, my friends and neighbors, even myself from people who drive under the influence, I would have to take the decision-making away and make it impossible for them to do it.

I sat down with my friend, now my business partner, and talked about a device that could detect the signs of physical and cognitive impairment in a subject and prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver was positive for those signs. I patented my ideas and formed Omiga to commercialize the patents.

WN: How exactly does the technology work?

Karen: The Omiga device, that we subsequently named The Visulyzer, resembles a virtual reality headset. The premise is that anything that affects the central nervous system results in obvious dysfunction of the voluntary and involuntary muscles of the eye. By testing how a subject’s eyes move and react to various stimuli during a battery of tests, we can easily determine if those signs are present. The device also videos the performance of the tests and the movements of the eyes and analyzes the video, creating an archivable record of the testing session.

WN: Who are you planning to sell to — and through which channel(s)?

Karen: Our markets are varied and vast. The Visulyzer can be used alone, or as an ignition interlock device to prevent a vehicle or piece of equipment from operating. It will be a valuable tool for Law Enforcement, businesses that have fleet vehicles, employees in at-risk occupations or any business that has liability for human error. Because it can detect impairment of the central nervous system, it can also be used by first responders to identify traumatic brain injury (concussion). It has several practical applications in medical diagnostics, and, of course, it can be valuable to consumers and parents just like me.

WN: What are your plans for the grant money?

Karen: No matter how careful one is with their expenditures, starting a business is a money pit. We currently operate out of my garage (figuratively speaking) and will continue to do so until we absolutely have to have office, quality control, warehousing and distribution space all under one roof. In the meantime, we have lots of pre-launch marketing and development costs. David and I don’t see taking salaries for another year or two and all funds get funneled back into raising funds for tooling and manufacture of the next prototype or travel expenses to continue to introduce our product and company to our identified markets. Recently, for instance, I exhibited our early prototype to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association annual conference in Louisville, KY (see the image above) and received an overwhelmingly positive response by representatives in law enforcement and public safety.

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

Karen: 1. Write a business plan: Business plans are strategic GPS for success. Do your homework and research. Learn everything you possibly can about the business, the climate, the competition. Make sure you have a unique selling proposition that will be set you apart and also be compelling to your customers.

2. Seek mentors: We all have our limitations, and asking for help from those who’ve done what you want to do is the best way to learn–from their wins as well as their losses. And engage several mentors all at once.

3. Remain positive. People without courage or ambition will try to dissuade you. They’ll tell you all the reasons why you won’t succeed. So don’t be put off by that, it’s good and valuable information, actually, because knowing all the obstacles you’ll face allows you to prepare for them.

4. Let your “Freak Flag Fly.” Passion and belief are two of the most important characteristics because they are both attractive and infectious. If the people who can help you the most catch your “fever” they will lift and propel you toward your goal.

August Qualification Grant Awarded To Farm Field Sea

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Recently, we revealed our Qualification Grant Finalists for August: Made With Love Catering, Farm.Field.Sea., ityDity, Sleepy Baby Box and Scismic.

Today, we’re delighted to announce our $1,000 grant recipient — Nevette Previd, Founder of Farm.Field.Sea.

Read on to learn about Nevette and her one-of-a-kind business.

WN: What is Farm.Field.Sea and how did the business come to fruition?

Nevette: Farm.Field.Sea. produces educational and skill-driven tours and events centered on the local agriculture, aquaculture, and food artisans of Martha’s Vineyard.

The idea was inspired by my travels around the world and love of learning about different cultures though their food. Farm.Field.Sea. came to life in 2013 — my motivation was to fill a tourism niche on the island for culinary and agritourism events and to create economic and community-based opportunities for local producers. It was curious to me that Martha’s Vineyard – a 96 square mile island off the coast of Massachusetts – had not tapped into the growing trend of food travel. With over 42 farms that sell fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, honey, and cheese, 20 (and growing) Oyster farms and generations of fishermen that contribute to the island’s vibrant food scene, the opportunities (to me!) were endless. Farm.Field.Sea. was also an opportunity to forge collaborations across sectors—the arts, hospitality, non-profits, producers – blending the divide between seasonal visitors and the year-round community.

WN: How does your schedule change when winter arrives?

Nevette: Martha’s Vineyard has quite a seasonal economy – the population goes from 16,000 year round to 160,000 in July and August! Many shops and restaurants close, and most farmers wrap up operations before the holidays. Our attention turns from producing events to planning events – meeting with new and old collaborators, foraging new partnerships and consulting for clients who are interested in learning and implementing what we do in their own community. Our everyday life goes from beaches, eating out and taking advantage of the many cultural events that happen on the island every summer, to home dinner parties, cooking and planning for vacations (it’s essential to get off island in February and March to escape the grey!).

WN: What type of feedback have you received from customers?

Nevette: Our adventures always surprise people. I can honestly say they get just giddy ‘experiencing’ their food – touching (and eating!) oysters right from the ocean under their feet or say, harvesting produce and cooking it up right on the farm. I personally still geek out being able to have a real conversation with farmers.

WN: What are your plans for the grant money?

Nevette: We run a lean and nimble operation. We are not, however, invincible to the challenges faced by these limited resources. As a small business owner I find myself wearing many hats – from IT and web design to business, PR, marketing and sales. The Amber Qualification Grant will be used to hire a freelance full-stack web developer to start the upgrade of our website and create a more robust eCommerce site.

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

Nevette: Stay with it! Collaborate! Ask a lot of questions. It’s super scary to be an entrepreneur. You have to wear a million hats and encounter a lot of issues. But the rewards are incredible, and I promise — they’re worth the time and effort.

Interested in applying for a future grant?
Head here to get started.

July Qualification Grant Awarded to Hey Paddle

Monday, August 7th, 2017

Last week, we shared our Amber Grant Finalists for the month of July.

As always, the WomensNet community made it tough on us.

Today, though, we’re happy to put July grant winner Rebecca Tongsinoon, Co-Founder of Hey Paddle, in the spotlight.

Continue on to read about her journey with a truly unique business…

How did Hey Paddle come to be?

It was April 2016, and I was in the middle of yet another grueling 100+ hour week trying to launch my software startup off the ground. My close friend, Chris, who happened to be a personal trainer, wouldn’t take no for an answer and would get me out on stand up paddle boards with her. We began doing strength and core workouts while on the board. One workout turned into daily workouts and soon enough, we had our healthy routine at our pop up outdoor gym on the lake. Being on Lake Austin in the sunshine, hearing the calming water surround us while we were working out was the incredible experience we knew we had to bring to Austin and beyond. And that’s how Hey Paddle came to be.

Beyond earning a living, what is it that motivates you to be an entrepreneur?

The opportunity to create a product and service, that impacts the world in an innovative and positive way, continues to be our #1 motivator and reward. Knowing that we have helped even 1 more person create a healthy and happy lifestyle and hearing our community’s success stories motivates us during the most challenging times.

Which advertising channel(s) have you found to be most effective for you?

Instagram has given us the most reach within our demographic for brand awareness over Facebook or SEO, but nothing can beat “feet on the street”, and participating in local community events, and hosting pop-up classes on land in stores, coffees shops, and other popular locations around town.

What type of feedback have you received from your customers?

We are fortunate to receive both positive and constructive feedback from our customers through ratings on our partner sites. We strive to improve upon the constructive feedback, such as when we were fortunate enough to receive the following regarding class programming:

“This class moved extremely fast. It would have been nice to slow down to accommodate the board, and use the paddle as a prop when needed (tree).” (3 out of 5 stars)

We made a few adjustments to the class format, and since then, have seen those class ratings shoot up.

Our most positive and rewarding feedback comes from our members referring us, and the celebration of meeting their individual fitness goals. One of our members who had a milestone goal of toning up before being a bridesmaid in a wedding, took before photos and sent them to us with progress photos after 8 weeks, and was so excited she had exceeded her expectations.

What goals do you have for Hey Paddle — short-term and long-term?

Short-term, our goals are to expand the Hey Paddle community in Austin by increasing attendance in classes, offering additional classes in other lakes in town, and training more instructors to provide those classes.

Long-term, we envision bringing fitness on paddle boards to every lake, pond, body of water in American and beyond, and developing an on demand mobile option for our community who may prefer or need to work out at home, or while traveling. Hey Paddle is evolving into a healthy lifestyle community, and we want to extend our reach globally.

July Qualification Grant Awarded to Pepper

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Last week, we revealed our July Amber Grant finalists. Now, we’re delighted to introduce you to the winning ladies behind the brand — Jaclyn Fu and Lia Winograd, Founders of Pepper. Their company makes better fitting clothes for small-chested women — with an early focus on bras.

Read our interview below to learn about their early experiences in business — and gain some helpful PR tips for promotion…

How did you come up with the name Pepper?

Lia and I spent weeks trying to come up with a name. Over lunch, we started
throwing out random words based on what was in our immediate vicinity.
Potential names in this discussion included Sandwich, Spork, Napkin, Table,
Salt… and then ‘Pepper’.

We both looked at each other and knew it was the one. Pepper sounded
feminine, playful and distinct from every other lingerie company brand. It
had a strong ‘P’ sound which aligned nicely with ‘petite’. We also loved
that peppercorns were round and small, but also packed a lot of punch!

How many pre-orders have you received since you started?

We launched our first design, the All-You Bra, on Kickstarter in April 2017
with the initial goal of meeting minimum production requirements of
$10,000. We raised that in just 10 hours, and in 13 days we were 470%
funded with over 950 backers. We quickly opened up an online pre-order
store after and sold 400 additional bras since then, reaching $65,000 in
pre-order sales in just three months!

To what do you credit the exposure you’ve gotten in some major media
outlets in such a short time?
(Pepper has been featured in Allure, The Huffington Post, and other prominent outlets.)

A willingness to roll up the sleeves and do the dirty work. We didn’t have
the money to hire a PR agency, so we had to figure it out ourselves. It
required A LOT of hours putting together our PR hit list 2 months before
launch, and doing the research on contact information, relevancy and
possible angles. We also spent a lot of time refining our press release and
personalizing the outreach emails for each contact. I would recommend
starting the conversation with your PR contacts a few weeks before your
launch so that they can line up their coverage right with your launch date.
And if people don’t respond to your emails, change up the copy and subject
line and email them again!

If helpful for others, I also wrote down some of the steps and lessons we learned from our first PR efforts on my blog.

Are you going to patent your new cup mold?

It’s something we evaluated, but due to the time and money involved, we
want to focus on fulfilling our current pre-orders first and getting
customer feedback on how these cups are received.

Having an awesome product is important to the Pepper experience, but how we
really want to differentiate and defend our brand is to cultivate authentic
relationships with our customers that can’t be replicated. This is why if
we receive the $1000 Amber Grant, we plan on investing it towards a
customer reviews platform that will allow us to capture reviews, share them
on our website, and create trust and transparency with our customers.

We created Pepper to make meaningful impact in our customers’ lives and
their view on body image. Bras are the first step, but we also plan on
expanding into swim, athletic wear, and other clothing that will help a
small-chested woman feel awesome. Patents could be in our future!

Do you plan to sell your clothing exclusively online?

For the time being, Pepper will be a direct-to-consumer online business.
Our goals for the next few years are to build up the brand, optimize our
supply chain efficiencies, and refine our product designs before we expand
into retail distribution.

To leverage in-person shopping, we plan on creating pop-up experiences by
partnering with other vendors and using them as community events. We see
these events as a fun way to test in-person retail and to connect with our
customers!

June Qualification Grant Awarded to Baby Bay Box

Monday, July 10th, 2017

June was a special month here at WomensNet.

On Sunday, we unveiled 1 of 2 Qualification Grant winners for June.

Today, we’re proud to share the 2nd winner — Anna Dailey, Founder of Baby Bay Box.

Enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, Anna is 1 of the youngest grant recipients in our history. Continue on to get a taste of why we chose to support her business…

WN: What prompted you to start up Baby Bay Box?

AD: I came up with the idea while I was working as a nanny in my hometown, caring primarily for babies and toddlers. From my close contact with these families, I learned about the exorbitant amount of cash parents spend trying to keep their children stylish and comfortable. I observed as some families formed small hand-me-down circles throughout the neighborhood and that got me thinking. What if I could expand those informal networks and allow them to reach anyone around the world? I saw the potential in these systems and decided to elevate them to an E-commerce platform. I want to save parents money and time that they would have spent shopping and help them keep up with the growth of their rapidly-developing children. In addition, I want to minimize environmental waste by reducing the amount of clothing items that sit around the house once a child grows too big. I am extremely passionate about this project, and I have seen firsthand the stress-relieving effect that Baby Bay Box has on a parent.

WN: Where did the name Baby Bay Box come from?

AD: Well, I’m sure the “Baby” and “Box” parts of the name are rather self-explanatory. As far as “Bay,” that part has a couple meanings. Firstly, I am from the Bay Area in California, so that word has a personal significance to me. All of the families that inspired the idea are Bay Area residents as well.

In addition, I handpick styles that could be “baby-neutral” (not necessarily just for boys/girls). Though I do not limit the styles to shades of grey, I refrain from items that depicts traditionally female or male figures. I stick to colors, prints, and the occasional animal. “Bay” is an up and coming gender-neutral baby name, which I think suits the brand nicely.

With these meaningful words paired with a convenient alliteration, I knew I had to go with Baby Bay Box.

WN: When is the website expected to launch?

AD: If all goes well, we will launch before 2017 is out! Wish us luck!

WN: We know you’ve tested the product with a few families in Philadelphia. What have you learned from that experience?

AD: Yes! We ran a pilot in Philadelphia this past spring. I was primarily concerned with logistics of the supply chain (laundry, shipping, etc). So far, I’ve received valuable feedback from the families and very few complaints. I want to upscale the quality of the packaging as well as work out a more seamless shipping method. The experience was very illuminating and I hope to present an even better product when we launch officially!

WN: Who is manufacturing the clothing? Is there a challenge in building up enough initial inventory?

AD: So far, we’ve purchased most of our inventory from 100% organic wholesalers as well as a few Etsy sellers. For the future, we hope to get more high end brands involved.

There is a challenge in building up inventory because we don’t want to have too much on our hands with no one to buy it. It will be on us to ensure that we have enough customers committed to pre-sale so that we don’t end up in a ditch too deep to climb out of.

WN: What are your long-term goals with Baby Bay Box?

AD: Sometimes when I think about the possibilities of Baby Bay Box’s future my head starts to spin. I have such faith in the project and such confidence in the customers’ need for it that I truly believe we will succeed. Of course, it will take a lot of hard work and a substantial amount of “right place right time” kind of luck, but I think we’ll get there. The biggest goal that I have for Baby Bay Box is to reach the highest number of customers possible. I want it to be a household name- like Rent the Runway or Gymboree. I also would like to manufacture my own baby apparel line some time in the future. I could see my style being minimalistic with lots of greys, creams, and blues.

The more people are using the service, the higher quality we’ll be able to make the clothes. I’m especially motivated to grow the company because, with each new customer, we’re eliminating a heap of fabric that would’ve likely been used very little or not at all. I am driven to make these goals a reality when I think of the millions of parents that we could be helping and all of the fabric we could conserve. When the benefits are so tangible, I feel it is my obligation to make it happen.