Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

BraveHoods is Our May Amber Grant Winner!

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Last week we announced the May Amber Grant finalists and today we’re elated to announce our winner.

Big congratulations going out to BraveHoods LLC.

Please take a moment to check out our interview with our winner below.

BraveHoods
Allison Yacht

http://www.bravehoods.com/

Brave Hoods

BraveHoods, LLC is a one-for-one company. They make hoodie t-shirts with empowering and positive messages. For each BraveHood that is sold they donate one to a brave kid who is battling cancer.

 


WN: What made you decide to take on the idea of a one-for-one company as opposed to a charity?

AY: We have struggled with the best way to set this up since we started. We decided to go one-for-one for three main reasons.  First, we thought that one-for-one would give our customers a more direct link to our mission and allow people to be more involved.  Sometimes, when I give to a non-profit, I don’t feel like I am making much of a difference.  With one-for-one, our supporters know exactly how they are helping.   Second, we know how popular hoodies have become, so what better way to get our word out than to be featured on clothing they would otherwise wear.  And third, starting a non-profit is difficult and expensive.   We would rather use these resources to help kids.  Additionally, while some of my experience lies in the non-profit world, most of it comes from working with businesses, including the database consulting firm I founded and operated for over ten years.

 

WN: Do you have to be a caregiver or a hospital to register a sick child for a free BraveHoods Hoodie?

AY: No, definitely not.  We get requests from many people that have relationships with kids including aunts, neighbors and friends.  One of our goals is to give people a tangible way to make a difference to kids needing it.  When you know of a child with cancer, you just want to be able to do something to help.  Working with BraveHoods provides a simple way to help, but makes a big impact on the children receiving them.

 

WN: How many children have you been able to give a BraveHood to?

AY: So far, we have donated almost 400 BraveHoods.  They have been delivered to the following hospitals: The Children’s Hospital Colorado, The Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation (for kids at the Rocky Mountain Children’s Hospital), Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Jimmy Fund (for the kids at the Dana Farber Cancer Center), Wisconsin Children’s Hospital, Vermont Children’s Hospital and to many kids who have contacted us.  Our next donations will go to the Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

 

WN: How is Meredith doing today? Does she help you out from time-to-time?

AY: We just celebrated 2 years cancer free and she is doing great.  She finished first grade and has an exciting summer planned with her brother.  We are so very grateful.  Both kids help in so many ways including putting stickers on envelopes, packing up shirts for donation and helping at our booth at events.  My son, Zach, comes up with the best marketing ideas.   I love their enthusiasm and support.

 

WN: What are your plans for the future?

AY: We have two big goals for the future.  First, we want to donate 1300 BraveHoods.  This number represents just 10% of the kids that are diagnosed each year in the US.  Second, we are getting ready to manufacture our own hoodies.  They will be made in the USA and we will be able to design them just the way we want them.  The Amber Grant will go toward our manufacturing efforts.

I also want to mention that our customers do not have to buy a hoodie.  We have something called “No shirt for you, but we will give away two”.  This is a great option if you don’t need a hoodie.

Thank you so much for this opportunity.  Because we are a one-for-one, I truly feel like this is a team effort and I am humbled by our customers willingness to help.  And I am blown away by the kids that we get to reach.  I wish there was no more cancer, but until that is a reality, I want to make as many kids as comfortable as possible.

Thank you again.

Thank you for reading! Remember we award an Amber Grant every month – if interested here’s the link to apply! We hope you all have a wonderful day!

 

Hazel Lane & ArtInFact Magazine Win April Amber Grants

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Last week we announced the April Amber Grant finalists and today we’re elated to announce not one, but two winners.

Big congratulations going out to both Hazel Lane and ArtInFact Magazine!

Please take a moment to check out our interviews with each winner below.

Hazel Lane
Ashley DeKellis & Samantha Strom
http://www.hazelln.com

Hazel Lane Co Founders

Hazel Lane is a subscription box service that helps people explore the world, without having to leave home. Every month they send a carefully curated box of surprise goodies from that month’s selected city, taking great care to represent that place’s unique spirit and flavors. San Francisco’s box was foodie focused, while LA’s was sun & health. NYC will be fashion-forward, and Austin will be WEIRD!

We asked Ashley & Sam a few questions about their venture, and here’s what they had to say:

1. When spotlighting a new city each month, you must encounter many products. How do you select the items and businesses you feature?

We do find a ton of swoon worthy companies and products in every city. We work with our network, our members, friends, friend-of-friends, bloggers and anyone who wants to nominate a brand. Because we are committed to featuring locally-made, small brands that are eco-friendlier, our pool of products is automatically narrowed down. We also tend to feature a lot of female-founded businesses. Our final decision is usually when we both say “I have to have this and so-and-son would love it too.” It’s very scientific. =)

2. Do you get to go to these places and personally pick out the products yourself?

One day we will. That’s our goal! We’re lucky that we have enthusiastic supporters and members who help out in the meantime. We recently had a subscriber email and tell us she’s sending US a product she thinks we will like from a city she thinks we should feature. It’s a lot of fun to see people get so excited and engaged with the process from start-to-finish.

3. What is your favorite product you’ve found so far?

Oh this is a tough one! We really love everything we’ve put in the boxes so far. The top three are probably: Poco Dolce Chocolate and *plastique from San Francisco & Miss Marissa by Ebba from the Brooklyn box.

4. If you could visit one city in the world, right now. What would it be?
Paris, France! We have wanted to travel to Paris together since college. Ashley was a fashion major and took 4 years of French. With that knowledge under our belts, we can at least say “pardon moi, Ou se trouvé Le centre commercial Le plus proche?

Translation, Excuse me, where is the nearest shopping mall?” That’s all we really need to know, right?

5. Do you have any advice for any other moms out there looking to start their own business?
Yes, It sounds cliche because it really is…”Do what you have a passion for”. There is so much work that goes into starting a business. From web design, pricing, product selection, legalities, budget…but most of all time not spent with your family while working on the business. It’s been a struggle working on something you hope will benefit the future of your family but in turn requires a significant amount of time away from them. I’m still trying to balance work and family and honestly have a hard time finding a happy medium. Just surrounding myself with positive people, asking for help (babysitters, friends and mother-in-laws) and the overall love for my family helps keep the dream alive and flourishing.

ArtInFact Magazine
Semhar Woldeyesus
http://www.artinfactmag.com

ArtInFact

ArtInFact Magazine is content platform for entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and independent brands in New York City. It was created to provide early adopters with coverage of creative startups and micro-trends.Their chief goal is to empower independent creatives and small-scale entrepreneurs who have not been able to garner press attention, but have incredible products and services.

Here’s what Semmi had to say:

1. How well did the ladies on your team know one other before starting ArtInFact? How did you meet?

We first met each other four years ago at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. None of us are originally from New York City, so we quickly bonded. Getting adjusted here can be tough at first, especially when you don’t know anyone. But we really lucked out! We collided over a common interest in not only building our profiles as entrepreneurial, creative storytellers, but also supporting the endeavors of the people we feature. After graduating, we kept in touch. Despite working for different channels and media platforms, we continued to cheer each other on and support one another. We all had big dreams before coming to the city, and our friendship has empowered us to continue achieving them. Knowing each other is a real privilege; we are basically like family!

2. What inspired you to launch a magazine together?

We were inspired to start ArtInFact Magazine because we realized that so many entrepreneurs and creative professionals in this city could not get their stories told. In our day jobs, we kept noticing how independent brands and startups couldn’t get the same kind of coverage or attention as mainstream brands. New York is a city built and run by entrepreneurs from all different sectors. Yet the startups that get routine coverage are often tech ventures or companies that have major investment backing. We wanted to create a platform for those who don’t have a celebrity cosign, but truly care about their work and have a remarkable product. We are here to capture the independent spirit of New York.

3. Once you’re officially registered as an LLC, what will be your first plan of action?

Once we are registered as an LLC, we plan to roll out ads and take ArtInFact Mag into the real world with events, pop-up sales, and partnerships with independent brands. Although we are a content platform, one of our top priorities is to empower creative startups beyond telling their story. We are dedicated to building a community, not just an audience. Our events will also be linked to a mobile app where startups and creative professionals can register their company and get noticed!

4. Do you have any advice for those who are in the startup business in NYC looking to get in touch with you?

We are always on the hunt for new startups or ideas. If you are based in the NYC area, all you have to do is pitch us via our contact page. In your pitch, don’t be afraid to get personal. Tell us about your work and what inspired you to get started. And it doesn’t matter if you haven’t sold millions of units or are just starting out − we want to know about you! As we’ve learned in our own journey as a startup, the most important thing is to just do it. By working consistently, producing a lot of work, and putting yourself on a deadline, you will reach new heights.

5. What’s the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

To have full autonomy over the quality of work we produce and to be able to tell the stories of people we feel truly play a vital role in our communities is a great feeling. As entrepreneurs, we have put ourselves in a position to empower others. The most rewarding feeling is when a reader reaches out and tells us how a story impacted them or when an entrepreneur we’ve profiled expresses thanks. We understand how tough it is to get noticed and we are constantly in awe of underdogs. That’s who we are here for. Starting your own business involves so much risk, every story we publish is an opportunity to encourage other like-minded spirits to keep going! Failure only happens when you quit.

We’re honored to be able to help each of these fantastic businesses in a small way! Stay tuned for more inspiring applications and winner interviews, and don’t forget – the deadline for our May Amber Grant will be here before you know it!

Pig of the Month Wins March Amber Grant

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Congratulations to our latest WomensNet.net Amber Grant Winner, Lea Richards.

Lea is the President of Pig of the Month, a mail order meats company specializing in BBQ.  Continue on to learn more about her company, her motivation, and her advice for women entrepreneurs…

WN: Congratulations on winning the March Amber Grant!

LR: Thank you so so much!  This is amazing!

WN: Where did the idea for Pig of the Month come from?

LR: I had just left my job in finance, and moved back home to try and figure out the next step.  Father’s Day was coming up, so I ordered ribs from a competitor for my Dad. When they came we were so disappointed by the quality of the meats and presentation that my dad remarked that I could do a better job — so, we researched it a little bit, and gave it a go!  We named it Pig of the Month since you can get all sorts of different kinds of piggy products delivered to you every month.

WN: How did you find others to get involved?

LR: It’s grown very organically.  I’ve hired people that I have come across during normal business activities.  For instance, our sales guy used to be our FedEx rep – he impressed me so much that I just knew I had to have him on board. Hiring is tough, so if you see someone in action that impresses you it never hurts to ask them to join you.

WN: We know that you emphasize customer service.  Talk about how you make your customers feel appreciated.

LR: I think it’s very important to make every part of an interaction with your company a positive, memorable experience.  We use custom shipping notifications that are really funny, along with custom shipping labels to make even the mundane more fun.   When customers call us we always answer with a smile, and since we only have 2 people doing customer service, they typically remember you and ask about your family, the weather where you are, etc. to make the customers feel like they really are a part of our family.  Every little thing counts!

WN: How do you plan to change the way this generation looks at food?

LR: I think we need to move away from mass produced foods with unrecognizable ingredients to whole foods that are made fresh.  We’re doing it through the products we sell, and the informational videos and blog posts we do on our site as well.  It’s important to us that we make sure our customers know why our products may be a little more expensive, but a lot better for them.   Let’s get rid of the preservatives and nitrates once and for all!

WN: What advice would you give to other women who are interested in starting their own business?

LR: Just get started!  The hardest part of starting a business for me was taking all the research and information from courses, etc and actually putting it into action.  Once you get going though, you can easily test every element of your plan out and see what actually works for you.  Don’t compare your success with anybody else’s – this might be their 3rd attempt, or 4th year in business.  You never know the backstory, and its not fair to compare your middle to their end – it will only leave you feeling bad.

Special Mid-Month Amber Grant Awarded

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Hello!

We hope you’re having a fantastic March.

We’re writing to let you know about our special mid-month Amber Grant. That award went to Miranda Stapel, owner of Rule of Pie Bakeshop in Southern Illinois.

We absolutely love her application. In fact, we’d like to share it with you – because this is the type of detail, vision, emotion and passion we’re looking for.

We hope you enjoy reading about Miranda. Remember, we’ll be awarding another Amber Grant at the end of March. And stay tuned for some HUGE news in the coming months …

RuleofPieLogo

Website: Rule of Pie (under construction)

WN: Why do you want to be self-employed?
MS: I’ve considered and re-considered what a move like this means for me. I have–up until all this talk of pie–stayed at home with my two kids (ages 2 and 4). Working outside of the home is rewarding in a way that working inside of it isn’t (and vice versa). I’m allowed an opportunity to interact with my community. I’m able to engage with the local environment and local economy in a way that means something. Southern Illinois means a lot to me–I’m a lifer here, just like my parents, and their parents, and their parents’ parents. And I want to contribute to this place in way that impacts more than myself and more than my family.

WN: Tell us about your business.
MS: This whole idea started as an argument. I know that doesn’t sound hopeful, but my husband was eating one of my desserts and remarked about it being the best thing he’d ever eaten. I thought the remark was obligatory, and told him to save it. A few days later, he told me that he’d paid an entry fee to participate in a local farmer’s market (coordinated by a friend of ours), and asked if I could bake him five pies to sell. He took those pies (strawberry, from an old family, in-house recipe) and sold them all. The next week he asked for ten, then for fifteen, then for twenty, and so on. My pies were selling so fast! And here’s why I think the they did:

I bake with the seasons, so my menu is always small. We’re a boutique shop. So, chances are, if you can find it in Wal-Mart, you’re not going to find it in my shop–save for the pies. And we don’t call mass-produced bakery-stuffs pies. We call them Jelly Shells. They’re cheap, box-crust, with colorful gelatinous messes inside of them. We make sure that our customers appreciate artisanal quality, that they know about–which presupposes that they care about–the ingredients in the sweet stuff. Right now, for the Feb-March season, I’m making cheesecakes, sweet chocolate cream pies, and lemon tarts. That’s season-specific, with a few added menu items (i.e. truffles, shortcakes, etc.) around the seasonal staples. We’ll change in April-May, with chess pies and when Strawberries become readily available to us.

To that point, and as to why we start with Strawberries in May as opposed to year-round, I source as much produce as I can locally. From family-owned farms and growers like McGlaughlin Strawberries (i.e. Murphysboro, IL), Blueberry Hill (Cobden, IL), Flamm’s Orchards (Cobden, IL), Demange Farms (Jacob, IL), etc. It’s the fresh, local, hand-picked stuff that makes such a difference.

I’m in talks with a local coffee roaster to stock us with espresso (i.e. for hot pour-over drinks and for our taramisu).

I make everything I can by hand–no shortcuts–with absolutely no additives, preservatives. Our stuff is farm-fresh. Even the whipped cream and egg wash we use; our eggs come from our chickens. The ones we feed and care for daily. I want to showcase Southern Illinois produce, and I think our collective output will perform well. Real well.

WN: If awarded a grant, what are your plans for the funds?
MS: Right now, we cater to larger recreational and corporate events. We provide desert bars for weddings, menus for work parties, favors for parties, etc. All of our revenue has come through this back-end channel. And I call it back-end because it has allowed me the capital to expand. I’ve recently purchased a facility in Downtown Murphysboro, IL to serve as our primary bake-site and (eventually) storefront.

If I’m awarded a grant (of any size) I’m going to put it towards a computer for the shop. I know that might not sound tantalizing, but we’re in such a rural area here, simple things are hard to come by: like internet connections. It took us forever to establish one of those. It sounds so antiquated, but at this point, I’ve had pens, papers, and calculators. I feel like an abacus would be an upgrade.

To the point, I guess: I don’t want to be utterly dependent on someone else to situate my financial house. I’m not trying to be arrogant, or sound like others haven’t helped along the way (they have). It’s just, I feel uncomfortable as being thought of as someone who can’t make sense of the business-side of things. I need technology and software to help me arrange revenue distribution charts, track purchase orders, situate inventory, regulate involuntary outgoing expenses, etc. I know I can handle it, I just need better tools.

WN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MS: Thanks for any time you spent on reading this. I don’t know if what I’ve said is sexy enough to garner any attention, but I’m being honest here: I believe in the products here in Southern Illinois and would like to share the sum of our work with others.

Thanks so much for reading. Have a wonderful day.
-Christina

Fast Company Features Former Grant Winner, Refresh Water Technologies

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

We just wanted to give a quick shoutout and congratulations to Eliza Becton of Refresh, our Amber Grant winner from last June.

The not-yet-30-year-old Eliza, her team, and their more eco-friendly Refresh water vending machine project were featured in this Fast Co. article, A Water Vending Machine That Minimizes Bottling’s Nasty Side – which is sure to give them a big boost in awareness.

The Refresh uses a collapsible container that allows vending operators to stock five times more bottles in a machine, and that fills up bottles on-site, filtering water from the tap.

Eliza Becton - Refresh Water Technologies Founder

Eliza Becton – Refresh Water Technologies Founder


Can we go ahead and say that we bought into them before they took off? Because we totally did.

We’re really excited to have been a part of this project, even in a small way.

Angle Oar Wins February Amber Grant

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Congratulations to our latest WomensNet.net Amber Grant Winner, Meg McCall.

Meg is the Founder of Angle Oar. Together with her father, she aims to bring the joy of kayaking to thousands of new enthusiasts, and get those who thought they had to give it up due to injury, ability or age, a chance to get back out there. Continue reading to learn about what makes the Angle Oar unique. And be sure to check out the Angle Oar demo.

WN: Congratulations on winning the February Amber Grant!

MM: Thank you so much for this grant. It is tremendously helpful!!

WN: How did your dad decide to become a kayaker in his 80s? There must be a story behind it!

MM: Our family, and my Dad in particular, have always loved the outdoors. My sister older sister, Amy, had bought a kayak, and when my Dad saw it, he decided to give it a try, also. He’d always loved to boat and fish, and so at 75 he started fishing from his new kayak.

Unfortunately, my Dad has several serious medical conditions including congestive heart failure, diabetes, asthma and poor circulation, just to name a few. So when he would go out using a traditional straight paddle, it wore him out very easily. That’s when he decided there must be a more energy-efficient way to paddle. He subsequently created the Angle Oar.

WN: How long did it take for the design phase of the product?

MM: He crafted his first prototype several years ago, but it wasn’t until I took a keen interest in it around November of 2012 that we began fine-tuning the design in earnest. We made a variety of improvements and tested several prototypes before applying for a patent in March of 2013. After that phase, I had to have the electronic drawings created and new prototypes manufactured based on our latest specs. We’re just now at a point where we’re doing our first large-scale run of paddles. So in total, it took about a year and a half from idea to manufacture.

There have been many bumps along the way, but I always keep in mind the words I received in an unsolicited testimonial from a young woman who has a health condition that affects her shoulders and overall strength. She said, “I’ve been all over the Internet for months looking for a product like this. Please, keep developing your product no matter the trials you may come across. It will impact so many people.” That keeps me going!

WN: What was your previous experience in marketing?

MM: The first 14 years of my career were spent working for a United Way in Madison, Wi. I started out in the program evaluation and funding side of the organization, but for the last six years was the Director of Marketing. After that, I spent five years as a Marketing Manager in the IT division of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. It was there that I gained a deeper understanding of software and technology. This experience laid the groundwork for my last position as Director of Marketing for MINDBODY, which is based in San Luis Obispo, CA. The company provides business management software to health and wellness studios across the world. It was a very exciting and dynamic place to work, and my efforts helped the organization grow 70% for three consecutive years. The company is about to go public in another year or so.

With respect to Angle Oar, my marketing experience has definitely been an asset. It’s been the manufacturing side of the business that has been the real learning curve. I continue to learn more about things like aluminum extrusion, plastic injection moldings and machine tooling each day!

WN: Are your plans to sell it exclusively online to start?

MM: Yes, right now we sell primarily online through our website and Amazon, however we have just begun reaching out to distributors and retailers, so the Angle Oar should be available in various retail spots by the end of the year. We also have another online distributor confirmed, Access to Recreation, that provides equipment and devices to people with disabilities, though the company is transitioning to a new website so our product is not up quite yet.

On a related note, we give away a free paddle on our Facebook page at every major milestone. Everyone who Likes us is eligible to win.

*Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day. Remember that we’ll award another Amber Grant in March!