Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

2017 Amber Grant Awarded to Levity Products

Monday, January 1st, 2018

We believe in incredible people with amazing visions.

That was the foundation for our 12 candidates for the 2017 Amber Grant: Mom Made Peeks, ScriptoPro, Levity Products, Gabby Bows, aLoo, Yoga2Sleep, STEMed Academy, Mama Joy Foods, Pepper, Farm.Field.Sea, Omiga and WiGo Trips.

Congratulations to each and every one of you.

After careful and lengthy deliberation, we’ve come to a conclusion on the 2017 Amber Grant recipient ($2,500).

Congratulations to Sarah Olson, Founder of Levity Products. Please take a few minutes to read about Sarah’s impassioned motivation and mission.

WN: You earned a Qualification Grant back in January. Remind everyone of your backstory and mission with Levity Products.

Sarah: My middle son, Levi (5), was born with Spina Bifida. In his five years, he has had 15 surgeries! In 2016, he had 9 of them. It was a brutal year for all of us. Levi endured a lot of pain and infections from the device that had to be used to drain his bladder after every one of his surgeries. We ended up having to spend 60 nights total in the hospital that year, and the majority of it was due to the complication from the device he was forced to use.

By the beginning of April, he had already underwent 6 surgeries/procedures. He was so worn out and I couldn’t take it anymore. To watch my son in that amount of pain was maddening. I felt so helpless, as I would hold him screaming in pain. I was desperate to do something to help him.

By July, his 7th surgery was scheduled and I made an appointment with his Urologist to discuss what was going to happen. I remember sitting in that appointment and asking the doctor, “What else is there? We can’t use that device again. I can’t do it. I can’t watch him suffer like we have. It feels so inhumane! Please tell me there is something else we can use.” I will never forget the words he said next.

He said, “Sarah, there is nothing else. This is all there is to drain the bladder while Levi heals.” Then he jokingly said as he walked out the door, “if you want something different, you’re going to have to invent it.” In that moment, a light bulb went off. I couldn’t watch my son in pain anymore, so I thought, “well, I guess momma is going to invent something then.”

I have zero medical background and zero engineering skills. I was just a momma on a mission to help my baby. I had less than two months to come up with a device that could help him. One day I was thinking and praying about what to do and it hit me like a bolt from heaven. I had the idea. I asked a friend if he would help me bring my idea to life by helping me draw out dimensions to create a CAD for a 3D printer to print a prototype. We got it done in a matter of days and a couple weeks later, we had a prototype printed. I took it to Levi’s Urologist and said, “do you remember telling me that if I wanted something different that I would need to invent something?” He laughed and said yes. Then I pulled out my prototype and said, “So I invented something. Will you try it?”

He looked at me with a blank stare and said, “Sarah! You know I was joking right?” I replied, “I know you were, but I wasn’t. Will you please try it.” He tried it right there in the office and it worked. IT WORKED! He told me he would use it under one condition…I had to file for a patent, and then he would use it on Levi for his surgery that was 29 days away.

I scrambled and worked hard with another friend of mine to prepare and file a patent. 3 days before Levi went in for surgery, we successfully filed for our first provisional patent. What a rush of emotion. We completed what we set out to do and now we would put my device to the test on my own child. I remember waiting in the waiting room while Levi was in surgery, praying that it would work. I was praying that my device would do its job and help my son. Levi’s Urologist came out after surgery to update us on how everything went and the first words out of his mouth were, “IT’S WORKING!!” What took Levi 2 1/2 weeks to heal from in January of that year with the existing device now took Levi 1 observation night in the hospital. He went home and healed beautifully with my invention.

My original goal was to help my son, but my goal has changed. Now I’m on a mission to help children all over the globe feel relief from pain and infection and have a chance to live more independently. I’m a momma on a mission to help other mommas who feel as helpless as I did.

WN: What progress have you made since January?

Sarah: The device is being put through a New Product Development Process for medical devices frame work known as “Stage Gate” to make sure that the prototype I designed will be in compliance with the medical device industry requirements. This Stage Gate NPD frame work is a process comprised of well defined stages. Each stage has a specific purpose within the process. The stages we have completed in this last year are:

a) Conceptualization and Prototyping
b) Market segment Feasibility Study
c) IP protection and branding strategy
d) Raw Material Integration Process
e) Manufacturing Integration
f) Biocompatibility Testing in animals

We are now beginning:

g) Clinical Validation through a Phase II Clinical Trials in Humans
h) Commercialization Process split in 3 stages: i) Pre-Launch ii) Launch iii) Post-Launch

We have come a LONG way. We refuse to cut corners and are dedicated to creating a legitimate medical device recognized internationally as a device that has the potential to change the way children are treated in Urology.

WN: We know the Amber Grant funds will go towards clinical trials. How long do you anticipate that period taking?

Sarah: There are lots of variables to the length of time it can take. We expect anywhere between 1-2 years if we continue to stay on track and move forward the way we have been. Again, we are extremely dedicated to doing exactly what it takes to make the device safe and effective for kids. It’s a process, but a process we are very careful to complete well.

WN: How do you plan to monetize your device?

Sarah: We are in conversations with several straight catheters manufactures to execute a strategic alliance where we can speed up the market penetration process. My goal is to get the LECS to market as quickly as possible so that it can start helping kids the way it has helped my son.

WN: How is Levi?

Sarah: He is doing well. He will always have physical battles, but what matters most is that he’s mentally tough. He can’t control his body, but we teach him that he is able to control his mind and his attitude towards his condition. Let me tell you, Spina Bifida does not slow him down often. He lives with an incredible amount of pain a lot of the time, but you may never know it. He fights hard to turn his pain into power. He desperately wants to be just like any other 5 year old boy. He’s my hero.

WN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Sarah: What I’ve accomplished could not have been possible without the incredible talent and genius of the team of people that I work with. They are incredibly gifted and have a heart for the mission of this project. They have an intense focus on giving back and making a difference on this planet with the talents they’ve been given and knowledge they’ve acquired from successfully taking other devices to market. People frequently comment on what I’ve done in inventing the LECS (Levi External Catheter Stabilizer), but I will whole heartedly admit that the main thing I focused on was surrounding myself with people that are far better than me. I’ve worked very hard to become what I’ve had to become to lead a project like this, but I’m grateful for a team that makes me look as good as they do. The entire Levity team deserves an enormous amount of credit for what has been accomplished. As a team, we will complete this mission and give hope to those who suffer as Levi did.

November Amber Grant Awarded to Anahata Collaborative

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Last Friday, we shared our November Grant finalists.

As always, the WomensNet community made our decision a difficult one.

But today, we’re happy to put November Grant winner Lara Cornell, Founder and Owner of Anahata Collaborative, in the spotlight.

Continue on to read about her truly multidimensional business…

Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Founder/Owner Lara Cornell.

WN: How did Anahata Collaborative come about and what purpose does it serve?

LC: Anahata Collaborative came from my own personal journey into finding my heart centered career path. With a background in retail, management and international travel, I recently added the title of artist and wellness professional (with various wellness certifications) on top of it. Over the past couple years people started to ask me what I was going to do with all my new skills. My answer was always “I don’t know, but I know it’s going to be a space. Some sort of space for art and wellness to come together”. The vision for this space changed throughout the next couple years from a local maker retail shop, to a yoga studio, to an art studio… and eventually I realized it’s just that, a space. Anahata (which refers to the Heart Chakra in sanskrit) Collaborative was to be a space for art and wellness to blend together. After all, art is healing, and healing is art. This space would encourage collaboration, such as a photographer collaborating with a nutritionist and see what they come up with. Or a painter and yoga teacher. Or a writer and an energy worker. The combinations are as endless as the possibilities. Through collaboration we grow and we find new and unique ways to build our careers and reach out community. We aim to explore the intersection between art and wellness and bring our discovery out into the greater community through a variety of ways including “doing good” and giving from our Heart Chakra as well. Our goal is to encourage collaboration, discussion, discovery, and help heart centered entrepreneurs build their own businesses so they can show up to the world as their best selves and be able to make a difference.

WN: What type of response have you received from the community?

LC: My community has been incredible! I’ve been meeting so many amazing people whom I would never have met if I had not started this project. A lot of this is still in the infancy stage since we just opened this fall and we are still meeting and listening with our target audience to better understand their needs. I have begun partnering with non-profits in the area who support the arts, wellbeing, small business entrepreneurs and others. We had our first Local Maker Market pop-up shop this past week, which was a great success. I look forward to having more of these in the future! We are also expanding our collaborations in order to provide more business classes to our members as well as a speaker series for the upcoming year. We have opened up our venue to encourage more events such as Offbeat weddings, and corporate team building events (with offerings in art and wellness). It seems like every day there is a new idea (gallery shows, music series, women’s empowerment offerings, and more), and it’s been incredibly inspiring.

WN: Are there any other collaboratives in your area?

LC: Minneapolis is blessed to have an abundance of creative people and be a community conscious of health and wellbeing. There are many online groups, as well as groups which meet once a month or less, and an active arts district. Anahata Collaborative, however, is unique in that it encourages the blending of art and wellness and strives to bring them together, in addition to helping people in these fields build their businesses and be successful. We also aim to gather and collaborate on a weekly basis helping entrepreneurs keep accountable, inspired, and educated.

WN: Who would you consider your competition (if anyone)?

LC: Coworking spaces are becoming very popular in Minneapolis, but Anahata isn’t exactly a coworking space even if people are working in the space. It’s a true collaborative community with a large focus on helping our members and bringing them together, while doing good in the community.

WN: What are your plans for the grant funds and the future of Anahata Collaborative?

LC: With this grant we will be hosting a farm-to-table dinner for a select group of artists and wellness professionals. Anahata Collaborative will be teaming up with an art non-profit as well as a school of wellness to open up the discussion on the intersection of art and wellness. We will intentionally select different types of artist and different types of wellness professionals so we have a variety of skills and resources. What we want to uncover is how art and wellness intersect, how we can bring it out into the community, the benefits of blending these two fields together, and how to help entrepreneurs in these particular fields build their businesses (unique challenges, obstacles, needs, how they are similar, how they differ). After this dinner, with additional grant money, we would like to implement our findings. We foresee business classes agreed upon to be beneficial, community gatherings/events, and continued discussions/panels/presentations on this intersection through local museums and wellness schools which would also facilitate community outreach. If it permits, we’d really enjoy collaborating with some unique non-profits doing work pertaining to this particular intersection.

WN: What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

LC: Follow your heart. It’s going to be really hard, and bumpy, and you’re going to feel insane at times, but keep going. Your heart knows the way.

Thanks for reading, and a huge thank you to Lara for her time. If you’re interested in applying for the December Grant, get started today

October Amber Grant Awarded to WiGo Trips

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

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

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

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

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

WN: What drove you to create WiGo Trips?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WN: Discuss the process and timeline of developing the app

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

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

WN: Where are your marketing efforts focused?

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

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

WN: How will you monetize the business?

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

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

WN: What are your plans for the grant money?

JM: The grant funds will go to app development.


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

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

September Amber Grant Awarded To Omiga

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Recently, we unveiled our Qualification Grant Finalists for September.

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

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

WN: How did Omiga come to fruition?

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

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

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

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

WN: How exactly does the technology work?

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

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

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

WN: What are your plans for the grant money?

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

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

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

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

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

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

August Amber Grant Awarded To Farm Field Sea

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

WN: How does your schedule change when winter arrives?

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

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

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

WN: What are your plans for the grant money?

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

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

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

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

July Amber Grant Awarded to Hey Paddle

Monday, August 7th, 2017

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

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

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

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

How did Hey Paddle come to be?

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

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

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

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

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

What type of feedback have you received from your customers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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