Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

Solid Ground Shelters Wins First Amber Grant of 2014

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Congratulations to our latest WomensNet.net Amber Grant Winner, Lauren Cecil from Maryland.

Lauren is the Founder of Solid Ground Shelters, a company that puts a new spin on the traditional camping scene. Continue reading to learn all about Lauren and her company.

WN: What was the biggest challenge in starting up?

LC: I believe the hardest part of starting a business is just taking that initial leap of faith and doing it. There are always obstacles when you decide to start your first company, but the adventure of overcoming those obstacles one by one is very exciting. Starting a company is thrilling, overwhelming, scary, fun, and challenging.

Luckily, I have had an amazing support system behind me in starting Solid Ground Shelters. Jason (my partner) and myself have made a great team and our strengths and weaknesses balance out well. Our family and friends have been so fantastic, and we could not thank them enough.

I love working on our company every single day and can’t wait to see how it grows and changes every year. Thank you to the WomensNet.net team for awarding us with this grant. It helps us to be able to grow our business, and we appreciate all that you are doing for other ladies who are pursuing entrepreneurship!

WN: Any unique stories you can share about any of your guests?

LC: There are too many to count! I think my favorite event thus far has been a wedding we did for a special couple in Maryland. We brought our tents and set up at The Treehouse Camp, which is a campground in the Catoctin Mountains. The couple was so excited about their special day, and our tents were another fun aspect of their outdoorsy wedding. Seeing our customers faces light up when they open their tent doors to see the decor inside is always my favorite part of any event, and this particular couples’ faces were priceless. It was so great to be apart of their special day and make it even more unique.

WN: Tell us about your charity work.

LC: We have partnered with a fabulous charity called ShelterBox because we want to be able to provide solid ground to those who have lost their homes. ShelterBox helps by providing shelter and necessary items to people displaced by their homes due to natural disaster, conflicts, and other tragic circumstances. Being able to help just one family every year brings so much meaning to what we are doing.

WN: What inspired you to create a Safari-Style accommodations camping grounds?

LC: I had no idea how much I loved camping until I decided one day to be a camping guide and lead camping trips across the USA. Camping allows you to enjoy the outdoors, be closer to nature, and always get into some sort of adventure. I love all of these aspects that are associated with camping.

What I don’t love is not sleeping! I like to get my 8 hours a night, and without fail I do not sleep well when I camp. So, Jason and I thought about creating a mobile glamping company where we can bring the camping to any location that you would like to camp. We realized there were a lot of people like myself who would like to be in the outdoors, but would also like to have the comforts of a hotel. So, we have brought our glamping accommodations to music festivals, weddings, wineries, and other events.

WN: How big is the property?

LC: We do not have our own property currently, but that is one of our long term goals. Currently, we bring the glamping tents to whatever property suits your fancy! This is great because people can create their dream camping vacations and events with us, and not have to worry about the details. Solid Ground Shelters is currently primarily operating on the East Coast, but we also plan to expand in the coming year.

WN: Thanks so much for your time, Lauren. All the best moving forward!

Daddy’s Deployed Wins December Amber Grant

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Congratulations to our latest WomensNet.net Amber Grant Winner, Bridget Platt from North Carolina. Bridget is the Founder of Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed (Daddy’s Deployed, LLC). Her company creates completely personalized children’s books for our countries littlest warriors with a parent deploying. We hope you take a few minutes to read our interview with her below.

WN: Congratulations on winning the December Amber Grant!
BP: I wish y’all could see the smile on my face right now. I feel so honored — thank you so much!

WN: What inspired you to create Daddy’s Deployed?
BP: It was always in the back of my mind…but I didn’t know what “it” was, exactly. I worked at a child development center on base several years ago, and I saw first-hand how young children could be affected by deployments. The father of one of our sweetest two-year-old girls deployed and immediately she changed: she didn’t want to eat, she started having accidents, and would cry out for him at nap time. I wanted to create something that would help young children understand what was happening in their lives. When my daughter was six-months-old her father had already left on three different military ventures, including a seven-month deployment. I wanted her to know who her daddy was, to “see” him on something she could touch. I knew I was on to something when we were shopping on base and she saw men in the same uniform her daddy wears (and that is shown in her book): she started kicking her legs and squealing excitedly in the baby carrier, even though she was only thirteen months old.

WN: How did you get involved with Lone Survivor Foundation?
BP: I knew I wanted to give back to families who have sacrificed so much for our country. My father had just finished reading The Lone Survivor and suggested I research the Lone Survivor Foundation. I believe so strongly in their mission and everything they do: from healing retreats to creating the awareness these warriors and their families deserve.

WN: Do you have a story about a particular family that you’ve helped?
BP: We recently received an email from a father, an Air Force pilot, who found out he was deploying 10 days before he was set to leave. He ordered a book for his young daughter and emailed us to see how long it would take to arrive. After reading his email, I contacted my illustrator in tears, and she created his personalized book immediately. We expedited the entire process and had the book in his hands in record time. He reached out to tell us that he was giving the book to his daughter the following night, her birthday, at story time before bed. It was their last night together and that’s how he wanted to spend it: introducing our book to his daughter. I am so proud of the fact that we were able to help that family. Having gone through two deployments with my husband, I know how stressful it can be when you have months to prepare…I can’t fathom ten days.

WN: What’s new since the application?
BP: We are thrilled to announce that we are developing corporate partnership options this month. We want to get our books into the hands of as many military families as possible, at little or no cost to them. We will be using this amazing grant to ensure that our partnership package is professional and effectively done. We will also be sending out copies of books to child development centers and schools on bases across the country to spread the good word. I believe that 2014 is going to be the “game changer” year for us, and this grant is proving that!

Stone’s Throw Urban Farm Wins November Amber Grant

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

A huge shout out to our latest WomensNet.net Amber Grant Winner, Robin Major from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Robin is one of the principals of Stone’s Throw Urban Farm. We hope you take a few minutes to read her interview below. We fell in love with her passion and business sense – and we’re sure she will inspire you!

WN: Congratulations on winning the November Amber Grant!

RM: Thank you! We are so honored and so excited to be recipients of the Amber Grant! The Amber Grant provides much needed opportunities to women entrepreneurs who face many challenges besides funding — culture, history, families, etc. Thank you again for everything you do.

WN: What inspired you to create Stone’s Throw Urban Farm?
RM: To be honest I never thought I would farm in the city. I thought farming in the city was “fake” farming, unrealistic, and for people who didn’t really know the realities of farming. I started farming in the city as a side project and as a stepping stone to eventually farm outside the city. However, the longer I worked and spoke to neighbors, community members, and other farmers, the more I was excited by the challenges and the potential. I began to think more about the bigger picture of why I farm – and what vision I want to work towards. I hope that our project is one small step towards a more equitable food system.

WN: How did you actually launch the business?
RM: Stone’s Throw Urban Farm began in 2011 when three urban farms (I ran one of those farms) merged together to combine resources, market, and land, to build a more lucrative and comprehensive business. In the spring of 2012 we ran a $15,000 kickstarter to buy our truck, trailer, and equipment. Since the kickstarter we have primarily relied on selling vegetables to pay for our labor, insurance, equipment and other supplies. Over the last two years we also received two small research grants.

WN: Tell us a bit about your business partners and the vision you all share.
RM: There are three partners — Alex Liebman, Eric Larsen, and me. Alex and I work full time on the farm and Eric works ¾ time. We all have our own administrative realms of the business, but share the visioning and much of the physical labor. We have weekly volunteers who help out on the farm and they play a large role in keeping us excited and motivated.

We are committed to developing a business with a triple bottom-line: financial sustainability, improvement of the ecological health of the land we farm, and on-farm education and community engagement. I farm in the city because I enjoy the complexities and challenges that it brings. I believe everyone, people of all races and backgrounds, have a right to eat and grow their own food and I believe farming in the city is one step towards a more equitable food system.

WN: How have city officials responded to your business?
RM: Some city officials have been incredibly supportive, some have been neutral, and some have complained. We farm in both Minneapolis and St. Paul so we work within two different city governments. Overall, both Minneapolis and St. Paul have done wonderful things towards allowing urban agriculture to exist in the city — we have access to water from fire hydrants, and we can sell food from our lots. However, there is a difference between allowing urban agriculture and fully endorsing it. Currently, land that is farmed on vacant lots is viewed as a place holder — an activity that occurs while the city waits for something with better tax revenue to take its place. City development and urban agriculture do not have to be at odds with each other; to make urban agriculture a permanent fixture in these cities it must be built into the planning and infrastructure of the city.

WN: What has been the response of city residents — particularly the underprivileged?
RM: Hundreds of people walk by our plots every day. Many do not look around, many do look and keep walking, and a few slow down and throw out a question or stop and chat. The feedback is primarily positive, “what is that big green thing?” or “thank you for making our neighborhood beautiful!” People like good, healthy food and know it is important. We do our best to respect our neighbors, to be welcoming and non-judgmental and to learn from the people around us. However, we are a farm business and the market constraints limit our ability to provide more food for the low-income community. We are a young business with a complex model and we have many flaws to work through. Our intention is to work with community members and the city to build a food system that provides fresh, local food to all people.

SitterCycle Wins October Amber Grant

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

We’re excited to announce the October WNN Amber Grant Winner — Helen Adeosun, founder of Sittercycle. Continue reading to learn more about her and her business journey.

WNN: Congratulations on winning the October Amber Grant Award!

HA: Thank you so much, it is such an honor! I am so excited, and I actually was inspired by last month’s winner — the founder of Designr!

WNN: Can you tell us a bit about the genesis of Sittercycle? How did you go from an EdM in Education from Harvard to starting Sittercycle?

HA: Great question! I actually had the beginnings of SitterCycle while I was a nanny the summer before I started grad school at Harvard. I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and work on something very meaningful given my background in teaching and training I started thinking about the educational offerings I could have used to be a better nanny. The children I cared for before I started grad school were on the autism spectrum and so often I felt that there was so much more I could have done to help, and spent the summer researching autism and how to best engage my charges before they headed back to school. My vision for SitterCycle is to help nannies and caregivers navigate providing care and the professionalism that entails. Throughout beginning SitterCycle I have been so fortunate to come in contact with nannies, educators, and entrepreneurs, that share this greater vision. The EdM was actually great preparation because it helped me translate a larger vision into the actionable steps to take to begin building SitterCycle, instead of entering education policy (my degree area) SitterCycle gets to be a part of a professional in home childcare education movement, something we don’t focus on too much in the US. I am so grateful!

WNN: We were surprised to learn there are associations and conferences for nannies! Beyond that, when most think of nannies, they think of wealthy people who hand off their kids to be raised. Can you help dispel that myth?

HA: Yes, it’s absolutely amazing! There are over a million nannies in the US alone, and the families they work with range the gambit and are no means all wealthy. I currently also work as an on call nanny. Nannies are as diverse in their skills, experience, and background as the families that they work with. Nannies work part time, full time, may have transitioned from the business and education world, come from all over the world, and their career is helping to grow a happy and healthy child. I just came back from a conference called Nannypalooza hosted by a career nanny, Sue Downey, and I was inspired by the various households and the diverse skill sets of those nannies. The greater message is dispelling the myth that nannies are babysitters: great nannies are women and,yes, men, who work 40+ hours a week and work in partnership with parents to care for children, successfully manage households, and are indeed professionals in every sense of the word. It’s an incredibly fulfilling profession and we do a lot more to ensure that nannies are fully recognized as professionals.

WNN: Sittercycle is an educational web platform for caregivers. Can you give a couple examples of what a caregiver would learn from Sittercycle.

HA: SitterCycle loves bringing experts to nannies. Our classes find the best experts on various aspects of childcare and we partner to create classes. By the end of this year we aim to launch 4 classes on our site on very distinct skills including nutrition and food allergies, the basics you should know starting out as a nanny, and teaching beginning literacy skills. We have podcasts with special guests including Alan Kazdin of the Yale Parenting Center and from the Dr. Phil Show on discipline to offer skills nannies and parents can use. In 2014, we aim to partner with organizations to host online classes, webinars, podcasts, and many opportunities to learn from experts.

We wish Helen the best of luck going forward!

Thank you for reading.

Christina

Nancy Quan Wins September Amber Grant

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

We’re excited to announce our September WNN Amber Grant Winner — Nancy Quan from San Francisco, California. Check out our interview below with Nancy. Our judges fell in love with her passion, drive and can-do spirit!

 

WNN: Congratulations on winning the September WNN Amber Grant. Please tell our readers a bit about your product and business.

 

NQ:  We are shooting for the moon!… Our product is called Dsg.nr (“Designer”) and it is a collaborative platform for the rest of the interior design industry. In short, Dsg.nr is a low-cost way for small interior design businesses to collaborate with clients, vendors, specialists, CAD artists, and everyone else. Think of it as a cross between Pinterest, Houzz, and Polyvore for millions of independent designers, craftspeople, contractors, students, and individuals who are decorating on a budget.

 

Our startup is 3 months old and we are two people. I am a 28 year old female, born in San Francisco, studied mechanical engineering and product design at Stanford, worked as a product designer, interior designer, restaurateur, got my MBA at UCLA Anderson and just moved back to the Bay Area. I understand the design industry well and see opportunities to improve the way we work with technology.

 

WNN: You actually have two men working with you as well…

 

NQ:  Yes, my partner and CTO is Oscar. He is 41, ex-Microsoft guy, originally from Mexico and a self-made man. He’s an expert programmer.

 

We both love what we’re doing and believe this is going to be a huge success.

 

We are hiring a part-time developer to help build out the search engine that we can tout to the investors we are meeting. His name is Misha, he’s a friend, and in addition to housing (I have an extra room in the house), I have offered him a small stipend for living expenses to get us through the next couple months until we can lock down a larger investment.

 

The WomensNet.net Amber Grant will cover most of Misha’s first month’s stipend!

 

WNN: What have been your biggest challenges so far?

 

NQ:  The tech industry and Silicon Valley is 95% white male (if you’re looking just at the investors and founders). Every day I wake up, pretend I don’t notice it, get out there and pitch.

 

Despite the odds, I have managed to find a few interested investors and have been well-received by the Valley. But it is an uphill climb and every day is the most challenging day of my life.

 

I could return to my previous world, the interior design industry, a female-dominated space, but where would the fun be?!

 

WNN: How did you get into interior design?

 

NQ:  I got into the interior design industry without any prior experience. It was post-recession (2009) and I had just moved to Los Angeles. My expenses were low, my hopes were high, and of course I feared that no one would hire me.

I contacted about 50 firms, and my selling points were: I have my own laptop, I will work for next to nothing, and I am willing to wear many hats and do whatever it takes to keep your company operating during these tough times. (2008 was devastating for most firms.)

 

Creative Resource Associates in Woodland Hills hired me. Over the next few years, I learned a lot about the industry. I got to meet with clients, lead design projects, and problem solve between different stakeholders. I loved it!

 

WNN: What makes “Designer” unique from the competition?

 

NQ:  My idea, generally speaking, is to improve design communication and collaboration, for designers and consumers, with easy-to-use web-based tools. Design is moving from the office to the Internet, but software tools are lagging behind. The software we use to create “mood-boards,” for example, is expensive and complicated and a barrier for most designers.

 

Our product is a web-based application called Dsg.nr (http://dsg.nr) and it will simplify the process of making design boards to improve the fluidity of conversation between designers, their clients, and their teams. The MVP, our design board editing tool, is currently under development and will be released very soon. It will be a free online tool that anyone can use.

 

After we release that product, we plan on building a collaboration platform and community centered around interior design. Not only will people be able to connect and interact, but they will also be able to hire teams, sell services, and find help for real-world projects. In the end, more people will have access to design services, and designers will have access to more projects.

 

WNN: We know you’re looking for investors. Should they contact you directly?

 

NQ:  Yes, interested investors should absolutely contact me. (Nancy Quan: nancy@dsg.nr, SF Bay Area.) We are about ready to launch our MVP and it’s going to be huge. We will use that traction to raise a $500,000 – $1 million seed round. Investors who believe in us and approach us early will get a much better deal.

Kiddologic Wins August Amber Grant

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Congratulations to our August Amber Grant Winner – Laurie O’Nion, founder and CEO of Kiddologic – an award-winning baby bib creator.  Below is Laurie’s story.

WNN:  Tell us how you were inspired to start Kiddlogic:

LO: My previous profession, prior to being a mom and entrepreneur, was as a wildlife biologist.  In 2008, I joyfully traded my backpack for a diaper bag to become a full time mom.  My husband and I were indescribably happy and grateful to become parents.

When my first kiddo was 6 months old and transitioning into solids, I quickly realized the need for a better bib.  I tried many of the options available, and found that conventional bibs and so-called ‘full coverage bibs’ on the market didn’t provide true protection of my baby’s clothes and were lacking in comfort, ease of use, quality, and style.   I started my company in 2010 to pursue the development of the bibit-all™ – in order to fill those gaps and that need both personally and in the market, and to create a job that I could do primarily from home with my little guy.

I poured all my research skills into learning, planning, and implementing the many ‘moving parts’ of the business that were necessary to take my product to market.  I didn’t have a business background, but I had always been a problem solver with an innovative nature—necessary qualities in a mom and in an entrepreneur.

WNN: How long was it before you launched your product?

LO: I launched the bibit-all™ at the ABC Kids Expo in October 2012 and began filling orders in January 2013.   The bibit-all™ is currently sold in 17 independent retailers, on Amazon, and on the Kiddologic website.  The bibit-all™ is poised to take off at a significant rate.  Large retailers including Babies R Us, Bed Bath and Beyond, Fred Meyer, and Walmart Canada have contacted me with interest in carrying the bibit-all™.  Kiddologic has the infrastructure in place (such as a manufacturer capable of efficiently producing large quantities, warehousing and fulfillment center with EDI) to meet large orders from mass-market retailers.

The bibit-all™ has already won four prestigious product awards.  It is a Parent Tested Parent Approved winner, a Mom’s Choice Award gold seal winner, a Mom’s Best Award winner, and a BabyMaternity Magazine Award winner (named 2013 Top Choice of the Year for the bibs category).  The bibit-all™ also received rave reviews from bloggers with significant social media following.  The word is getting out!

WNN:  What’s your long-term vision for Kiddlogic?

LO: Kiddologic’s mission is to offer “the best of basics” – products that are smart, practical, and fashionable solutions to the universal challenges of parenthood.  My focus is on improving the most essential baby care items that parents use every day.

This is an under-served niche in the distribution of juvenile products, as much of the innovation in the industry takes place in baby ‘gear’ categories such as strollers, car seats, high chairs, etc.   Baby ‘basics’ is a very attractive niche, as the market and demand is very large for the mandatory staples in baby care – especially when fresh new solutions to the current limitations in these basics are presented.   In addition, these primary care items are in a price range that make them ideal baby shower gifts, which broadens the market substantially.

I have an exciting plan for growth, with a consistent stream of new products to offer in the future.  I intend to grow Kiddologic into a trusted brand that is known for functional innovation, excellent quality, and modern style.   My vision is to  1.) expand the bibit-all™ line and 2.) grow the company’s product offerings and distribution to be a leader in the market of ‘baby basics’.

WNN:  What are your plans for the Amber Grant money?

LO:  I’ll use the Amber Grant toward making a strategic expansion of the bibit-all™ line that will significantly increase its distribution.  I plan to expand the bibit-all™ line to include a trendier fashion line that will appeal to the thousands of higher end baby boutiques.  This will allow Kiddologic to offer the fashion line exclusively to independent retailers (boutiques) and the original trio of solid colors to large mass market stores, establishing two thriving categories of wholesale distribution.

This strategy is a solution to one of the biggest challenges in retail – acquiring and keeping specialty stores as customers while, at the same time, securing mass market distribution.  Sometimes, specialty retailers will drop a product when it makes the leap to mass market distribution, because they feel they can’t compete with the bigger box stores in terms of price, and that the product is no longer unique enough for their customers if it is widely distributed.

Both of these categories of wholesale distribution (specialty retailers and big box stores) are vital to the growth of Kiddologic.  To grow the Kiddologic brand on a substantial level, I need national recognition, which means getting in front of the mainstream consumer in larger mass market stores.  At the same time, specialty retailers nurture the Kiddologic brand on a more intimate level by validating a standard of excellence in quality and style.

The Amber Grant obviously would not completely fund Kiddologic’s two-pronged approach to growth (establishing and growing both specialty and mass market channels of distribution), but it will be a significant and much needed component.