Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

Compassion Travel Worldwide Wins March Amber Grant

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Congratulations to the March WomensNet.net Amber Grant winner, Kristina Harutoonian! Kristina is the founder of Compassion Travel Worldwide.

Kristina is truly a one-of-a-kind entrepreneur. Combining her knowledge of the tourism industry with her passion for humanitarian work, Kristina formed Compassion Travel Worldwide. Through her business, she offers the unique ability to let others take unforgettable travels to foreign countries. During this time, teams will find leisure and recreation activity, but also have the opportunity to do some good in the destination city.

Kristina

We caught up with Kristina to find out more about Compassion Travel Worldwide.

WN: Kristina, congratulations on winning the March Amber Grant Award.

KH: That is so exciting! Thank you very much!

WN: How has the customer response been to your business?

KH: There has been a lot of support and interest in traveling with CTW, and I have been overwhelmed by the positive response. I think people are excited to experience a trip where they will have the opportunity to serve the communities and feel a sense of connection and fulfillment, but also be able to enjoy the adventure, culture and beauty of foreign countries.

WN: Can you tell our readers about a memorable experience of a person you met in your travels that have inspired you to move forward with Compassion Travel?

KH: We have just returned from our trip to Brazil, where one of the things we did was offer our help and support to the charity Esther’s Children. We met numerous young girls, many of whom had been saved from the trafficking industry. Their stories of perseverance, gratefulness, and hope were incredibly moving and challenged me to not ignore the problem of human trafficking, but rather be willing to face that sometimes we do not have the answers. But that does not mean there is no hope. One of the teenage girls named Veronica had grown up in a very abusive household, and though she had had a very hard life dealing with much injustice, she was extremely confident, joyful, and dedicated to studying so that she could graduate and pursue her professional dreams. I think it would have been easy for her to give up and probably no one would have blamed her. Nevertheless, she clearly had no desire to do so and that really impacted me. The founders of the Esther’s Children, Emily & Jenn Sutherland, witness these kinds of stories daily and though it is mentally and emotionally challenging, they refuse to give up on these girls. It is truly amazing to see how the empowerment of women can transform communities and bring healing to the broken.

WN: So you don’t necessarily dislike leisure travel.  You just don’t think people should focus singularly on leisure when they travel.  Is that a fair assessment of your attitude toward travel?

KH: I have always been a fan of leisure travel and have had the pleasure of working in the hospitality industry for a number of years. I have loved visiting other countries since I was a small child, and I believe spending money in foreign nations can support local businesses and job creation. However, I have also always felt that I wanted to do more with my travels and I noticed that everywhere I went there was a need that stirred my heart to compassion. In an effort to bridge together these two desires, I created Compassion Travel Worldwide so that people could start submerging themselves into international communities but also enjoy leisure travel. I think that humility, integrity, and balance are key and the most important factors in creating this business successfully.

WN: Tell us where you hope Compassion Travel is in 5 years

KH: I hope that in 5 years CTW has a strong network of charities and personal relationships where people can feel connected to one another with a common passion to travel and serve. I would love to host conferences where individuals, groups and families who have traveled on our trips or support the causes come together and share the impact on their own lives. Lastly, I would love to attend a UN conference as a travel ambassador…but that could take longer than 5 years 🙂

 

Interview with January 2012 Amber Grant Winner

Friday, March 29th, 2013

We recently caught up with our January 2012 Amber Grant winner, Valorie Nash of Kavalena Clothing. We thought you’d like to hear her update below. She should inspire women entrepreneurs everywhere!

WN: How is Kavalena doing these days?

VN: Hello Christina. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I can’t even tell you how much it meant to me to be awarded The Amber Grant last year!…Business has been going great. We just finished out an amazing Christmas season and have continued to grow and be able to impact more and more people. As a part of the grant, we were able to purchase some much needed equipment to better our product, as well as do some much needed branding for the business. We also were able to use some of the money to kick start our internship program which has been an incredible success. Directly and indirectly the $500 Amber Grant has hugely benefited this business.

WN: What’s on the business horizon for you?

VN: As I look to the future I am so excited to continue to grow and be able to help a larger network of people. I’m thrilled about a new initiative we are working on to build a fresh water well in Latin America with Living Water International, and look forward to the day when I can see the faces of children in a village that have clean water because Kavalena exists. Long term, I want Kavalena to be able to provide for more and more people’s needs, and to hopefully inspire others to use their lives to make a difference in the world around them.

WN: Can you tell us the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting Kavalena?

VN: What a huge question. I think I could fill an entire book with everything I have learned since starting a business. One of the lessons that I feel like I’m continuously having to re-learn is that the business doesn’t have to be huge overnight in order to be a success. I always find myself getting frustrated because we are not growing as fast as I would like, but I have found that some of the most meaningful things that have happened have had nothing to do with growth or sales. The people you meet, the relationships you build, and the impact your business has to encourage and inspire is just as significant as all the sales and growth of the business.

Of course another wonderful thing I learned was how great it is to meet with people who have been through what you are going through. It makes a huge difference to find people who have been through starting a business and will share their experiences with you. The best part is that most people want to see you succeed and will help you with any knowledge or information they can pass your way. If I were to give any advice it would be first and foremost, YOU CAN DO IT, stick with it even when it gets hard ( and it always gets hard).

You never know what you can accomplish if you don’t try things you don’t know how to do. When you feel overwhelmed and in over your head, while it feels like a sign to just give up, it is actually the opposite. Keep going, and you will always come out the other side smarter, stronger, and better for going through the experience. Starting a business is hard, some times very frustrating, and most often extremely overwhelming, but it is a challenge that will always make you better in the end. Rise to the challenge and never give up, you will be glad you did! I absolutely am glad I did!

WNN: Anything else you want to share?

VN: I would just like the thank you and everyone at Women’s Net for awarding Kavalena the Amber Grant last year. Being in the beginning stages of my business I was getting a bit discouraged, and feeling very much in over my head. When I was awarded the Amber Grant, not only was it a huge financial benefit, but it truly gave me the encouragement I needed to know that I was not crazy for starting this business. It was the defining clarification that I was not the only one who believed in Kavalena, but someone else ( Women’s Net) believed in Kavalena too; enough to give us a financial tool to help us grow! And grow we did! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for believing in Kavalena and helping us achieve our goals! I cannot even tell you how much I deeply appreciate Women’s Net, and the wonderful work you are doing to help, encourage, and inspire women in their goals to create their own businesses.Thank you, thank you, thank you!

February Amber Grant Winner Assists Children with Austism

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Congratulations to February’s WomensNet.net Amber Grant winner, Alexis Hiniker! Alexis is currently a grad student and researcher at the University of Washington in the Human Centered Design and Engineering program. Together with her team of two other women, Alexis has founded Go Go Games©, a suite of iPad games developed to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Working closely with co-founders Joy Wong Daniels and Heidi Williamson, Alexis has seized the opportunity to create a truly unique product. After realizing that there was a strong market need for their concept, the trio raced to get started. They have already released their first product, and have received glowing feedback from customers and the media. We interviewed Alexis to discover more about her team’s incredible mission.
alexis
WNN: Alexis, congratulations on winning the February Amber Grant.

AH: Thank you so much — this absolutely made my day! In addition to being a great honor, this will enable us to take our research much further. Thank you again for supporting Go Go Games Studios in particular and women entrepreneurs broadly; we are proud to be associated with your great work!

WNN: Describe for us the basics of Go Go Games in a nutshell

AH: We translate evidence-based therapies for autism into video games that are engaging for our target users. Behavioral therapy is expensive and time consuming (on the order of 25-40 hours a week) and our supplemental therapy can help close the gap between the amount of therapy kids need and the amount they actually receive.

WNN: How did you meet the other women involved in the project?

AH: The three of us met as graduate students in the Learning, Design and Technology program at Stanford University. The program brings together educators, engineers, designers and other innovators who all share an interest in leveraging technology for educational purposes. Together we built a joint master’s project, which subsequently became the foundation of the business we co-founded.

WNN: What was the inspiration behind aiding children with ASD?

AH: I became interested in autism when I was pregnant with my first child and reading about warning signs of different developmental delays. I was surprised to learn how useful technology has been to this particular group. Given my background in computer science and software engineering, I saw potential for me to make a contribution in this space. Joy and Heidi’s backgrounds in interaction design and user research were the perfect complement to mine, and all three of us felt that together we had the necessary well-rounded skill-set to create innovative educational experiences. We all went back to graduate school with the goal of using our technical and design skills to support underserved audiences, and we saw Go Go Games as an opportunity to do just that. For each of us, our commitment to this community has been continually strengthened as we’ve worked with our inspiring user testers over the past year.

WNN: What are your long-term goals going forward with the project?

AH: We are excited to be working on our next product and to be planning out a long-term product line! These will all involve gaming and play-based learning, leveraging evidence-based practices, and supporting individuals with autism in leading rich and independent lives.

January 2013 Amber Grant Award Winner

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

A huge shout-out to Hannah Rivard of Stacy, Minnesota – and founder of Cambria Equine – for being chosen as the WomenNet.net January Amber Grant winner! Hanna has leveraged her passion and love of horses into a unique business model. Below is an interview with our latest winner. We hope you’ll be inspired. Also a quick reminder that we’re now taking Amber Grant applications for February’s grant, and would love to hear your story!

WNN: Please tell our WomensNet.net readers a little bit about Cambria Equine.

HR: I began developing it in 2010, when I was a freshman in college, focusing my entire college education around preparing for it. It officially launches this month, and the business has three main parts:

1. I developed a completely unique, unheard-of method of horse training that I teach through in-person services (ex., lessons, clinics, seminars) as well as online coaching. : (www.cambriaequine.com). This training is focused on empowering people to train horses intuitively, through beauty and joy, which is a far cry from most instructors, who give only techniques and never empower their students to truly follow their dreams.

2. As an actress and model, I market this method uniquely through photoshoots, films, and theatrical shows. Horses in film—from Shadowfax in “Lord of the Rings” to the Black Stallion to Seabiscuit—awaken people’s longing for a deeper horse-human connection, and such stories can inspire people on a different level than pure instruction can. Focusing on art and beauty make Cambria Equine stand out markedly from every other horse business on the market today.

3. Finally, through extensive college research as well as my own dreams and vision, I realized there is an opportunity in the equestrian world for marketing artistic, beautiful horse products, from fashionable clothing to embroidered saddle pads to home décor. While many small businesses do sell those products, they are scattered across the internet and world, with no central hub for people to purchase them. I have developed, what I call Shop Cambria, which is an “Amazon.com for the artistic equestrian.” There, third-party vendors can upload their products to my site and sell them while I make a commission. In this way, I can support their businesses and dreams while also expanding my own.

WNN: What was your inspiration to become a woman entrepreneur?

My entire life has been a preparation for my life in Cambria Equine. When I was two, my favorite color was brown—because obviously, all horses were brown. When I was a teenager, I was already internationally recognized for my horsemanship and was developing my own unheard-of horsemanship style. When I became an adult, I was told by professionals that few could make a living with horses—but that I could. When I entered college, I won a $25,000 horse-in-an-essay contest which launched me again to international recognition. While in college, I designed my own major of Entrepreneurial Business so as to be best prepared for life as an entrepreneur and became the first person in my college to graduate with that degree. After graduating, I received even more entrepreneurial experience by writing and publishing a book on college scholarships (after maintaining a 4.00 GPA and funding my $100,000 education entirely through scholarships) and teaching at schools and colleges across the state on that subject.

Up at 6a.m., to bed at midnight, I live and breathe horses Cambria Equine, because nothing is more energizing to me than combining all my passions of art, beauty, acting, dance, spirituality, horses, teaching, and entrepreneurial spirit into one all-consuming passion. Cambria Equine isn’t just a hobby or a business—it is my heart.

WNN: What will you do with the Amber Grant money?

HR: I have already launched the website, purchased compatible hosting, WordPress templates, and plugins, and am saving thousands of dollars by designing the Cambria Equine website myself. However, while through research, evaluation, and sales/coupons, I have minimized startup costs, there are still three large costs left associated with launching Cambria Equine – one of which is shopping cart software. While there are a few less expensive shopping cart softwares available, none compare to the functionality and ease of use of CS-Cart. Therefore, the $500 Amber Grant will be used to pay for half the cost of the CS-Cart software so that I can be better equipped to provide for the consumer shopping needs of my clients as well as give my vendors an elegant, straightforward place to sell their products and support their own small business.

WNN: We’ll be keeping on eye on you and your business venture, Hannah. We wish you well!

HR: Thanks so much for this much-needed grant. It’s great how you’re helping women entrepreneurs!

December 2013 Amber Grant Winner!

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.

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.