Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

IQ Science, LLC (iqsciencellc.com) wins our December Amber Grant!

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Congratulations to Dr. Terry Smith-Glaser of Novi, Michigan – and owner of IQ Science, LLC (iqsciencellc.com) for being chosen as our December Amber Grant winner! Terry’s business idea is simple but innovative.  She performs assemblies that teach science to elementary school kids – engaging students in entertaining ways to learn science.  Below is an interview with our latest winner. We hope you’ll be inspired!

WNN:  Please tell us about IQ Science in a nutshell.

TSG: My business offers interactive science assemblies that combine “wow” moments with “a-ha” moments. I get kids excited about science, demonstrating fundamental principles in a fun and crazy, but clear and unthreatening manner.

WNN: What is your typical day like?

TSG: I might spend the day helping 3rd graders lift their teacher with a lever, or help 4th graders make rockets using water and Alka-seltzer. I might help 2nd graders construct rare and exotic jellybean fruits (a lesson in seed dispersal). Some days, I teach classes of young wizards to wield their wands (PVC pipe) in a game of steal-the-soda-can (a lesson in induced static electricity). On days when I’m not performing, I’m dreaming up more of these crazy activities: I design all of my programs myself, aligning them with grade level curriculum expectations, but ensuring that while scientifically rigorous, my shows remain fun.

WNN:  Tell us how you started IQ Science.

TSG: I created IQ Science after four years of donating time at my children’s schools and other elementary schools in the district.  I was performing assemblies for free that I created myself, developing new ones along the way. I saw a need for quality programs that could clearly explain and demonstrate science concepts to lower elementary students. I devised my first show, “What’s the Solution,” as a result of having my then- 2nd-grade daughter at home for half-day homeschooling. My daughter enjoyed the science activities so much, she asked me to bring them in to school to share with the kids she had class with in the mornings. The ball has been rolling ever since, with new ideas for shows springing up as my own children progress through the school system and ask for more information and more hands-on experiences.

WNN:  You’re the first Amber Grant winner with a Ph.D.  Can you tell us a bit about your background?

TSG:  Sure. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Biology from Harvard University in 1989, and my Ph. D. in Ecology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1996. I taught courses in general biology, environmental science, applied entomology, and animal behavior as adjunct professor in the Biology Department at Regis University in Denver from 1995-1999. I feel privileged to be able to share both my scientific knowledge and my passion for science with young school-aged children through my business. I’m ready to expand beyond the local school districts, to try and share my lessons with more and more students.

WNN:  Where is your business heading in 2013?

TSG:  After three years in business, I’m realizing that growing this business is severely limited by my own finite energy levels – it just is not possible to perform that many dynamic programs day after day and maintain the exuberance necessary to infect the students with my passion for science. I’m ready to take my business a new step forward, which requires seeking additional capital to support this next phase. I have little capital from the business to re-invest and pursue this new goal, as I make it a point to provide these programs at the lowest possible cost to my local schools, leaving me with a fairly small profit margin, despite great job satisfaction.

WNN:  What are your specific plans?

TSG:  Well, I can only perform so many live shows per school year. Producing videos would allow me to reach even greater audiences, increasing my exposure to more students, teachers, and homeschoolers; anyone curious about science. As the new science core curriculum rolls out to school in the upcoming year or two, the need for assistance in implementing these goals will be crucial. Teachers are already overburdened with large class sizes, high administrative demands, and frequent lack of adequate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) training. Under such situations, many classrooms are already set up to fail.

The Hands-free / Hands-on Science program I hope to launch would be an answer to those teachers’ problems. The video would provide background information on the core concepts while the teacher sets up the materials for the experiments. During the hands-on instructions, the teacher would be free to move about the classroom and help students having difficulty without slowing down the entire class. The teacher would have a hands-free solution to science instruction – no loss of prep time PLUS the freedom to interact with the students who need assistance. My live assembly programs already consist of many short activities and demonstration segments that could be adapted into video segments, easily illustrating important core curriculum concepts that are the foundation for understanding the science of the world around us.

October Amber Grant Award Winner is Vegan Bakery

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

We’re excited to announce our WomensNet.net Amber Grant winner for October:  Bianca Blanco is the owner of Bella Savour, a bakery that does fantastic desserts – with a complete vegan menu.  Our judges were taken by Bianca’s business savvy, her website, her use of social media videos, and the way in which she has branded herself and her business.  Oh, and her cakes and cupcakes looked delicious!  Below is an interview with Bianca – and a quick reminder that we’re now accepting applications for the November Amber Grant.  We’d love to hear your story.   If you or your business could use a boost, please apply NOW!

 

WNN:  Congratulations on winning the Amber Grant!

BB: Wow! Thank you so much!I feel so honored to be recognized by WomensNet.net.

WNN: How did you come to be self-employed?
BB: First, I spent a lot of years working for other people — putting so much passion and energy into someone else’s vision only to find myself disposable when the economy took a turn. And secondly and most importantly, I have an amazing product. Not only do I want to produce delicious vegan baked goods but I also want to deliver a message of health and empowerment to know what we are consuming and how it is produced.

WNN: How long ago did you start up Bella Savour?

BB: Bella Savour was started in early 2011, but I previously had another company under a different name that was also a cake decorating company – but not vegan. After deciding to become vegan, I struggled with the idea of serving people something I didn’t believe in. It took a little while, but early 2011 I decided to start from scratch and take my business 100% vegan. Change the name, concept, everything.

WNN:  That must have been quite a risk.

BB: Many people advised against it from a business standpoint, but I had to follow my gut on this one. If people stopped buying cakes from me because they were vegan then I would be ok with that and do something else. Luckily that didn’t happen at all. It’s been embraced that I stood for my beliefs.  And this platform gives me an opportunity to do more than sell cakes. I really want to expand the educational side of the business where I teach workshops and cooking classes.

WNN: What was the key to changing your business model?

BB: My goal was to sell cakes that tasted as good or better than before.  After a year of troubleshooting recipes, I cracked the code! Bella Savour cakes are super moist, delicious, rich cakes that no one knows is vegan unless told. Bella Savour is one of the only vegan companies to make elegant custom designed cakes. Bella started with cakes but will be much more. I’m in the process of writing my first cookbook as well and I would like partial proceeds of this cookbook to go to other women starting plant based food companies.

WNN: What’s the most popular thing you bake?

BB: Cupcakes are super popular of course. My cookies are also extremely popular as well. The other surprise is our vegan chocolate mousse which uses avocado as its base. If I don’t tell people they have no idea. It just tastes like an incredible and decadent mousse but people are always blown away and pleasantly surprised at the taste and how healthy it actually is. Overall our products are popular because it makes people shake their head and say “No way is this vegan!” That’s my favorite thing.

WNN: Our judges loved your Vegan in the City video.  What inspired that and who helped you produce it?

BB:  Oh I’m so glad! Vegan in the City is my brainchild. A dear friend – a producer of Long Beach Voices – shot it and edited it for me. I would love to shoot one every week and for it to be picked up by a network tomorrow. It started because first of all I’ve always wanted a cooking show. I even pretend to be hosting a cooking show when I’m in my own kitchen. Haaha. But the other reason is that I find that people are so curious about my lifestyle. It’s interesting to some, scary to some, and I always get the question, “but what do you eat, just lettuce??” I also know that there is a certain stigma that comes with the word vegan. People expect a certain type of character for some reason and I knew I wanted to breakdown these stereotypes and fears of the word vegan. There is nothing like it yet on the Food Network and I think people are looking for more options for their diet. I would love to just be able to inspire people to have a meal each week that doesn’t include meat and I think people want that. It’s not necessarily an attempt to turn everyone vegan but just to inspire the idea that including more veggies doesn’t mean missing out on a great hearty meal. I mean who would complain about a braised wild mushroom and asparagus pasta with a white bean and basil crostini and a glass of white wine? Even our biggest meat eating friends would enjoy that!

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

BB: We’ve just been accepted into Whole Foods Markets. This is great, but of course there are many expenses that come with this blessing. So we need help to get a couple permits that will allow us to sell wholesale now, as well as finish up the design of our packaging so we are ready to go! The Amber Grant will let that happen. Bella Savour has been through some challenges and finally getting such a win as being accepted into Whole Foods Markets is great – but of course without all the resources to make it happen it will be and “almost achieved” dream and I’m not willing to let this one pass.

WNN: Any plans for expanding nationally some day?

BB: Absolutely. We have major plans to expand nationally. Because I used to work in the natural food industry, I know what it takes to make that happen and know that for our Bella Savour products.  It’s just a matter of strategic planning to make sure we are set up for success. We will start in stores locally and expand strategically until we are in stores nationally. We think it’s great to go into stores.  But also more exciting news – we’ve decided on opening our first location by March 2013 in the Los Angeles area. Something we know will be well received because for as progressive as the Los Angeles area is for vegan, it still doesn’t have a vegan only cupcake/cake shop! So we are ready to fill that void. We think making these happen together will really help us build brand recognition. And within a couple years expanding to an east coast location as well.

September Amber Grant has a Secret

Friday, October 12th, 2012

We’re thrilled to announce the WomensNet.net Amber Grant winner for September, Frances Tang of Costa Mesa, California. Frances is the owner of The Secret Date Society. Below is her brief interview with WNN. We hope you’re inspired by her story. And a quick reminder that we’re now taking applications for the October WomensNet Grant!

WNN: Frances, congratulations on winning the WomensNet.net Amber Grant.

FT: Thank you so much! I’m very grateful and appreciative- this is definitely the boost I need right now.

WNN: How would you describe your business?

FT: The Secret Date Society is a pop-up date night for couples. It is an event that guarantees a nice meal, live entertainment, innovative venue and cash bar. The only information given to the attendees is the time, date and theme. The location isn’t disclosed until the day before the event – but attendees do not know the exact food or entertainment. They only have the theme. It’s meant to be a spontaneous, fun event for both partners to enjoy and embark on together. It’s catered towards people who don’t have time to plan out dates, don’t know how to, or would like to experience something completely different and spontaneous.

WNN: How did you come up with the idea for the Secret Date Society?

FT: I’ve always enjoyed helping my guy friends (and even some girlfriends!) come up with creative date ideas. I saw a need and basically merged that with my love of coordinating events and working with people. For me personally, it combines all aspects of what I love such as networking, food, entertainment and event planning. It opens up lots of opportunities to work with various caterers, restaurants, venues, local businesses and sponsors, many of which would not have an opportunity to have this kind of public exposure.

WNN: Can you tell us a little more about your business/work background?

FT: I went to UCSD for school and was launched into the workforce during a low point in the economy. It took me a long time to find a full-time job and when I did, I quickly found that it was great skills experience – but difficult to put my heart into what I was doing. Entrepreneurship seems to run in my family (my dad is an entrepreneur) so eventually I realized that it was something I definitely wanted to do, even if it meant beating the odds. I now currently have pulled together an eclectic but very awesome group of people who are all extremely smart, motivated and interested in entrepreneurship. We meet a few times a month to bounce around ideas, trade literature on the topic and just act as a support system for each other.

WNN: How did you find out about the WNN Amber Grant?

FT: I was searching for female, minority grants on the internet – starting a business comes with so many costs! Thankfully, I came across WomensNet.net and your Amber Grant for Women!
WNN: What have been the challenges as a minority female entrepreneur in finding money to help your business?

FT: I find that I’m not taken seriously (especially since my idea revolves around dating) and that my age is also a limiting factor (I’m in my 20s). Just gotta push through it!

August Amber Grant Winner Announced

Monday, September 17th, 2012

WomensNet.net is excited to announce that Valeria Albino, of luxuryrentalsinternational.com,  has been chosen as our Amber Grant Winner for August.  Our judges loved her story.  Valeria took a crisis and turned it into a great business opportunity.  Please take a minute to check out her story below.  And remember that we’re now accepting applications for the WNN AmberGrant for September!
We could be telling your story to the world next month.

VAlbino
WNN: Congratulations on being selected our August Amber Grant winner!…

VA:  Thank you! This is SO amazing!!! I couldn’t be happier!

WNN:  Please tell our readers about your business.

VA:  I’m 24 years old and own a VacationRental business  in Puerto Rico. I started in 2010, when I was a law student and my parents could not afford to pay our house mortgage. My dad had lost his job and my mom was working 2 jobs to compensate. Their income was not enough to pay the monthly mortgage. My family dedicated many years to flipping houses and making a profit out of it. In 2010, the real estate market fell apart and they were left with a big mortgage payment and all of their retirement funds stuck to the walls of a big house. I decided to help them by putting our house in the vacation rental market and welcome visitors to our beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Little did I know, it would be such a success.

WNN: How did your business grow from renting your parents’ home to offering other homes in the Caribbean?

VA:  When neighbors and old friends in the area found out what I was doing, they asked me to rent their properties as well. I realized at the time that I was not only helping my parents get through the economic crisis, but also old friends who found themselves in the same situation. It was a big relief for many property owners at the time. The word spread and suddenly I needed to build an organized business operation in order to continue listing more properties. As the company grew, I built a great website that served as a free platform for advertising vacation rentals in the Caribbean. Lots of realtors and owners in St. Barts approached us with their interest in advertising their properties.. And the rest is history!

WNN: How has your business gone so far?  How many people do you employ?

VA: We continue to grow every day as we constantly add new, amazing and interesting properties to our inventory. We now have close to 200 properties in the Caribbean, a sales office in Las Vegas and a fantastic network of fabulous property owners and amazing vacationers!  We have 5 members in sales and accounting. In Puerto Rico, well, I employed my friends and family 🙂 My brother in the technical support area, my parents in the property management and 3 friends who currently work as sales agents. Total I would say 11.

WNN:  What was your biggest challenge in building the business?

VA: I would say my biggest challenge was going through law school and building the company at the same time. But SO MANY people have had faith in me that I can’t even explain. Most of the owners are very influential people in the island and they’ve trusted us to do the best advertising, property management and luxury concierge service. It’s been amazing having such a great group of people trust our services.

WNN: Tell us more about your plans for marketing your site and business with the Amber Grant.

VA: Our plans are to have villas and destinations worldwide. In order to do that we need to invest in a new and more robust/ powerful website and a strong marketing campaign that targets the most exclusive group of people, both owners and travelers. We plan on affiliating with multiple travel agencies and villa agents to split profit and grow our inventory.This Amber Grant award means more than just the $500. It is an acknowledgment to minority women doing great things and I’m just thrilled to be a part of it!..

WNN: What’s the greatest thing about your business experience?

VA: This business was born from seeing my parents struggle with their economic situation and I’ve been able to help many other owners in the same situation by inviting families and friend create great memories in their beautiful  properties.

 

 

June Amber Grant Award Winner has Humor

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

WomensNet.net is proud to announce our Amber Grant Winner for June, Nicole Shellenberger, from Allentown, NJ.  Nicole and her sister are co-owners of Better Half Bitter Half (www.bhbh.biz), a small business that creates greeting cards focusing on the bitter or more challenging parts of life.  We hope you love her story below as much as we did.  Also, a friendly reminder that we’re now taking applications for the July WomensNet.net Amber Grant.  Please take a few minutes to tell us your story if you would like a chance at winning

WNN:  Our judges were charmed by your business.  Tell us about the inception of Better Half Bitter Half.

NS:  Our stationary business started when my sister went through a divorce and I couldn’t find a funny card for her. We talked about how there aren’t cards to help you through the bitter times in your life and make you laugh when you want to cry. Hence we came up with Better Half Bitter Half. We focus on humorous cards for the better half of your life with engagement, marriage, pregnancy and then break up, divorce, plastic surgery, unemployment, coming home from war, battling cancer and much more. After we printed our first round of cards, our mother was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer. We have focused our business on the cancer cards, car magnets and t shirts –and have been partnering with foundations so we can raise money and awareness.

WNN:  Who comes up with the copy for the cards?  Is it a brainstorm session?  Any alcohol involved?!

NS: Gina and I write the cards. Sometimes we will think of something randomly throughout the day and call the other person, sometimes it is over drinks and sometimes it just comes when we least expect it! Gina’s daughter (my Goddaughter) is 17 years old and our artist.

WNN: Which card is your favorite and why?

NS: Our favorite card is the Birthday card with the cake on the front that reads, “I order shots in honor of your birthday” on the outside and “Please select from the menu” on the inside and gives choices of cheeks, eyes, forehead and lips. We like it because we are in our early 40’s and this is when you start to feel like you look older and make jokes about getting botox. We also love our two cancer cards because they are now close to our heart since our Mom was diagnosed.

WNN: Do you sell your cards anywhere other than online?  What is your marketing plan at this point?

NS: We sell our cards in several local stores as well as in Colorado, Virginia and Georgia. We went to the National Stationary Show in New York City in May and had a great success. Our marketing plan is to focus on the cancer aspect and to work with non-profits. We are currently partnered with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the Sarah Parvin Soccerfest and Girls Love Mail. We bought the domain sites www.knockingcancerout.com and www.knockcancerout.com. We want to get these up and running and offer cards, t-shirts, journals and car magnets to create our business and to also give back. We will also continue to sell our thirty other cards that focus on the Better and Bitter times in life.

WNN:  Do you envision your business turning into something bigger than Hallmark?!!

NS:  We want our business to be huge and mostly because we want to bring a smile and some hope to those battling cancer. We want our boxer character to be associated with “Knocking Cancer Out.” We want to work with non-profits and to have our boxer become a logo that is recognized and associated with cancer and beating the disease. Our idea is to eventually change the color of the boxer so it will be teal for ovarian cancer, pink for breast cancer, etc.

WNN:  How is your mom doing?

NS: Our Mom will get her 6th and hopefully final round of chemo at Fox Chase in Philadelphia on July 11th. Our Mom is a beautiful woman inside and out. She has been an amazing role model our entire life but the way she has handled this disease is remarkable. She has lived her life and stopped in for chemo when needed. The battle became a bit harder after her 4th treatment but she is determined and doing well. We are encouraged by her strength, inspired by her attitude and grateful that she is our Mother.

May 2012 Amber Grant Awarded to Tri4Freedom.com

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

We’re thrilled to introduce you to the WomensNet.net Amber Grant winner for the month of May. Paula Heron is the head of a non-profit, Tri4Freedom, Inc. Below is a short interview with Paula. We hope you’re as inspired by her story as we were. And as a quick reminder, yes, we are now taking applications for the June Amber Grant. It only takes a few minutes to share your story with our judges.

WNN: Can you tell WNN readers about your business?

PH: Tri 4 Freedom is about using the sport of triathlon to do three main things: create awareness about human trafficking, promote fair trade in sport, and help support people who are survivors of human trafficking. Tri 4 Freedom has only been going for 6 months. In this time we have hosted an indoor triathlon which raised funds for trafficking survivors in Kentucky. We also set up at fair trade events and running/triathlon events and sell T-shirts made by survivors in India. In a few days, I – along with 4 other athletes — will endure a 27 hour triathlon to represent the 27 million people enslaved worldwide. The finish of this triathlon will coincide with a fair trade festival where vendors and organizations will showcase their efforts in combating human trafficking.

WNN: And what is your business model in terms of funding this effort?

PH: My goal with Tri 4 Freedom is to eventually develop a line of fair trade triathlon apparel that will not only help empower survivors or women in impoverished communities but will reinforce the importance of the principles of fair trade and make people aware of the growing rate of human trafficking.

WNN: Would it be fair to say that you want to use your entrepreneurial skills to support a cause as opposed to simply making money for yourself?

PH: Yes, most definitely. Tri 4 Freedom is a social enterprise that exists for the sole purpose of improving people’s lives. People who, because of their circumstances are vulnerable to being exploited, or have been freed from a trafficking situation and are trying to re-build their lives. I have endless energy and passion for this cause and my new entrepreneurial role is one I take very seriously.

WNN: The judges were moved by your idea of a cause-related apparel line. Can you tell us why/how you were drawn to the cause of human trafficking – and how it melded with triathletes?

PH: My awareness of human trafficking came from a movie. But I didn’t know just how prevalent human trafficking was all over the world, including the United States. The form of human trafficking that plagues my mind, in particular, is sex trafficking of women and children. The trickery involved in luring women into this trade and the subsequent brutality I find deeply disturbing and horrifying. I think of my own journey moving away from my home country of South Africa to pursue my dream career, and that victims of human trafficking are just like us – yet vulnerable because all they want is a better life for themselves and their families. Targeting triathletes in my passion for fighting human trafficking was a natural fit for me because of my involvement in the sport and the uniqueness of what I am trying to accomplish. The causes that do have a presence in the triathlon arena are mostly health-related, rather than human rights. Triathlon is a growing sport and I think is an effective platform to not only raise awareness about human trafficking but I believe to potentially be a powerful driving force in promoting social and environmental sustainability.

WNN: Tell us a bit about the notion of “fair trade in sports.”

PH: The availability and consumer awareness of fair trade items is increasing. The most common of which include goods such as coffee, chocolate, clothing, jewelry and crafts. While some fair trade sports apparel does exist, it is very limited and does not include triathlon apparel. I applaud the move toward the use of more Eco-friendly fabrics in performance apparel but to date I am unaware of any fair trade certified triathlon-specific apparel. Fair trade in sports goes beyond apparel and includes examples such as having fair trade coffee served at races, using fair trade chocolate in sports nutrition products and using ethically made sports products in general. With regards to human trafficking, sports items made by trafficking survivors in particular would help empower them to re-build their lives and raise awareness about the travesty of this issue. Racing events are already shifting toward going “green” signifying environmentally friendly – the same should be true for ensuring people friendly. Triathletes, and sports men and women in general, have the power to drive social change just by challenging and altering the status quo.

WNN: What are your plans for the Amber Grant?

PH: I’ll use it to buy fair trade coffee. Typically at a small local triathlon has as many as 200-400 athletes compete. What I do is set up a Tri 4 Freedom tent at these races to display our shirts and give out information about what we do. One way to engage the athletes and spectators is by having coffee available that attracts them to the tent. I did it this past weekend and I had bought coffee and all the supplies and was selling it for $2 per cup. The idea didn’t work. Folks who came by wanted coffee for free. Our financial situation, being so small, won’t allow for us to do this. The Amber Grant will allow me to give cups of coffee free to people who came by our tent and still allow me to pass out information on human trafficking and fair trade. The flyers, posters and stickers on human trafficking we get free from the US Department of Health and Human Services.