Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

The Center for Creative Arts Therapy is Our October Grant Winner!

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

After revealing Octobers’s Qualification Grant Finalists last week, we’re excited to announce our qualification grant winner. Congrats Azizi Marshall, founder of The Center for Creative Arts Therapy!

Read on to learn all about Azizi and her business.

Azizi Photo DT
The Center for Creative Arts Therapy
Azizi Marshall

WN: What is art-based psychotherapy? And how did you get involved in this field?

AM: Arts-based psychotherapy involves a licensed psychotherapist and graduate level training on how to incorporate the arts for healing others’ struggling with mental health issues. I use story making, role-play, music creations, collages, art journals, therapeutic performance, improvisation, and yes those coloring books for adults, to help a client gain new perspectives on their life. For example, a child with autism can come and see me to practice reading social cues, body language, eye contact and verbal expressions through role-play and improvisation. A stressed out working mother may use our sessions to explore her feelings of “mom guilt” through the use of an art journal, which allows her to express her feelings through images instead of regular talk therapy.

Growing up in a household of two artistic psychotherapist parents, I learned at an early age that people are beautifully complex. I was witness to how the arts could guide extremely troubled individuals and communities to a place of healing and growth. By participating in group therapy with my father’s clients struggling with eating disorders, multiple personalities, aggressive behavior, etc., I observed my father transform these individuals from people that hated life to people that loved themselves. It was not through traditional talk therapy, but through a therapeutic intervention called psychodrama; the marrying of psychotherapy and theatre.

After having worked as a professional theatre artist for many years, my father passed away from a heart attack when I was 21. I was lost for quite some time without his presence. I later stumbled upon an opportunity to do theatre with inner city youth. They were some of the most troubled teens I had ever encountered, and they had little knowledge of the world’s possibilities of growth due to their community’s lack of safety and financial stability. Through theatre I saw these kids grow, and learn about a world outside of their existence. They were able to give voice to their struggles and begin to form bonds with not only one another but also with the community.

WN: What classes do you offer? Do you have a favorite?

AM: We have both a Center for Training (where we train therapists on how to use the arts in their practice) and a Center for Therapy (where we offer individuals, communities, schools and organizations creative arts therapy services).

At our Center for Training we offer courses that lead toward a Registered Drama Therapist and/or a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist. Our classes are specifically customized for our students’ interests, and include Expressive Arts Therapy with War Veterans, Drama Therapy for Eating Disorders, Multi-Modal Arts Integration, Therapeutic Theatre, etc. My favorite class to teach is our Psychodrama course, as it is the class I first taught with my dad as a teen.

At our Counseling Center, we offer support groups for New Moms, First Responders, and Teenagers. We also offer a Therapeutic Theatre program, where we create original theatrical performances that express participants’ personal stories through dance, music and story telling. They are the creators, directors and performers. While it is hard to pick one group over another, the one I get the most energy from is our Therapeutic Theatre program. During one of our projects at an all girls’ high school, we created an original musical based on their lives. The Illinois High School Theatre Association was so impressed by what we had done, that they invited us to be the first student-led workshop in their history. It was an empowering experience for those girls, and some have presented with me again at other conferences on how theatre is therapeutic.

WN: Can anyone take classes at the center?

AM: Anyone wishing to pursue a passion in healing others through the arts is welcome to take classes at our center. We typically get people from around the world with backgrounds in social work, theatre, dance, counseling, and education. Our therapeutic services are offered to everyone and anyone can come and take classes at the center. We offer individual, group, couples, families and communities mental health services that incorporate the creative arts. I have seen people as young as 3 and as wise as 91.

WN: What is your biggest motivation?

AM: Not to sound cliché, but I do this for my father and my children. I want to pass on the legacy that my father bestowed upon me to share. Growing up he taught me how to read people’s body language while sitting at the mall “people watching”, and express myself through the arts through our collaboration on an award-winning American Red Cross theatre performance program exploring community health issues such as AIDS/HIV and domestic violence. It was almost as if he was training me to be who I am today.

My two girls have grown up in the theatre world; watching mommy direct shows, choreograph routines, run through lines with clients. My oldest daughter directs her friends in made up dance concerts and plays, reenacts “Romeo and Juliet”, and lives through her art. It is where she breathes. My youngest has the muscle definition of an Olympic gymnast. She has always sought out the unknown. She is fearless.

My ability to heal others through the arts is one way my girls will continue to know and understand their grandfather, since they will never meet him. It is a sorrowful challenge at times, yet one that keeps me going every day.

WN: What piece of advice would you give other female entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

AM: Perfection is the enemy of done. As I write the answers to these questions, I am covered in a fine dust of insulation debris from construction going on at our house caused by a flood, syrup from my 2-year-old daughter’s hands during a goodbye hug as I went into the office, and pen scribbles on my hand as I slept, trying not to forget what I needed to do the next day. I have a “To Do” list that goes on for 3 pages, with additional “To Dos” attached to the other “To Dos”.

Life as an entrepreneur is messy, literally and figuratively. You never know what will happen minute to minute, let alone what you may be covered in. Having a plan and being able to deviate from that plan in order to push your business forward is important. You’ve go to roll with the punches, because if you wait to jump into your dreams for that “just right” moment, it will never come. I have failed so many times trying to get things perfect, because perfection does not exist. It’s just you and a dream, so go ahead and make it a reality.

WN: Anything else you’d like to add?

AM: When I heard that I had won this award, I had just finished presenting at an Expressive Arts Association Conference with the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. I literally started to cry. It was as if the universe was telling me that I am on the right track; that who I am does make a difference. I have had many people throughout my life tell me that who I was was not important. “you love drama therapy too much”, “you smile too much” or “you have a strong personality”. It took me a long time to understand that what they said about me had more to do with their own insecurities than with me.

My passion for combining the arts and mental health extends beyond me as an individual, through my new creative arts therapy center for the community, and training center for drama and expressive arts therapy. Communities deserve to have access to creative arts therapy services and professional training. Through this grant I can continue to share these services with the world.

Thanks for reading! Remember that we award a grant every month – if interested, please apply today.

And if you’d like to vote for Azizi to win the $2,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for her here.

Vote Sporkables for The WomensNet Amber Grant

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

We recently announced our July Qualification Grant Winner Christine Lash, Founder of Sporkables.

Now, Christine needs your help. View her video below where she explains why you should vote for Sporkables to win the additional $2,000.

About:Sporkables provides dried, easy-to-reconstitute meals that taste homemade, targeted to hikers and campers. These homemade meals are ordered by campers as needed and are shipped directly to their location on the trail. All you have to do is let them know where you’ll be in 7-10 days and they’ll make sure your home-cooked meals are waiting for you when you get there.

Interested in receiving a grant like Christine? We award a grant every month – if interested, here’s the link to apply. We’d love to hear your story!

Take me back to the voting page.

Ivalieu Wins September’s Qualification Grant!

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

After revealing September’s qualification Grant Finalists last week, we’re excited to finally announce our qualification grant winner. Congrats Cathy Kellon, Creater of Ivalieu.

Cathy Kellon

WN: Where does the name Ivalieu come from?

CK: I wanted a name that was evocative of an era when bloomers (aka pettipants) were commonly worn and I’ve always loved names from the turn of last century so I scoured genealogy sites and pored over lists of long-lost relatives. There I stumbled upon the name of my great-grandmother’s sister: Evelyn Ivalieu Nisewarner. I was immediately smitten and thought the spelling and sound of Ivalieu (pronounced “eye-vah-lou”) were love, love, lovely. To top it off, Ms. Nisewarner grew up near Lovettsville, Virginia, where I was raised, and later moved to Warrenton, Virginia, the area where my husband grew up. A name with personal significance that bridges the past and present? Check.

WN: What led you to design Ivalieu clothing?

CK: After my second child I realized that I had been avoiding wearing skirts and dresses, especially so during the summer. It was too bad, I thought, as a skirt or dress instantly makes me feel more pulled together and attractive and those can be elusive feelings when you’ve got wee ones. But they simply were not practical. It was nearly impossible to keep my private bits private with all the bending down to pick things up, the repeatedly getting up and off the floor with your babies, toddlers toddling along lifting up your skirt, not to mention bike commuting for work.

Then one day I was reading a blog post about what to pack when traveling and the female author said she takes several skirts and a pair of bike shorts to wear underneath to deal with the ol’ sticky thighs issue. What? I had had enough. We can put a rover on the planet Mars but the only options for women who are active but also want to wear a skirt or dress is to wear tight, compression undergarments or sweaty bike shorts? And don’t get me started on those nylon slip-shorts made with a thin elastic waistband and pleats. Ack! I decided there must be a better way to preserve some modesty while feeling and looking good.

I wanted to modernize the bloomers of old with new performance fabrics and thoughtful design details. And so Ivalieu Pettipants was born.

Well, that makes it sound easier than it was. In the time it took me to go from concept to market, my youngest went from toddler to kindergartner. I’m a geographer by training and have spent my career in the nonprofit sector. Without any prior experience in the apparel world and while holding down a full-time director position by day, I’ve plowed forward by sheer determination and asking for advice at every turn.

From sourcing fabrics to incorporating the business and building a website, I’ve learned a ton. And as of this summer, all the design and production elements came into place so that I was able to launch online sales in July – yeah! I’m also very happy to say that Ivalieu are being manufactured where I live, in Portland, Oregon – double yeah!

WN: What makes your clothing so comfortable?


1. Delicious fabrics (is that a thing?). I searched high and low for performance fabrics that are light and stretchy, that wick and dry quickly yet still behave like a slip (no clothes clinging, thank you very much). Not only are the materials I offer durable and comfortable, you can go from work to work out without a wardrobe change.

2. I designed Ivalieu with a wide yoke of a waistband that smooths but doesn’t try to squeeze you like you’re a sausage. No elastic, zippers, snaps or buttons = no pinching. It’s a waistband that respects you.

3. The Sport silhouette, since it’s the most fitted version, is made with inner seams running side-to-side instead of front-to-back. That means there’s no pesky seam running all up in your business.

WN:Where did you come up with the creative names for your fabric?

CK: One late night when I was building the Ivalieu website I realized that I needed colloquial names for the fabrics I’m using (e.g., “wicking #19003” didn’t have much of a ring to it). I decided I wanted all the names to come from a 1980s pop song. ‘Cause why not? And so all the fabrics have three word names drawn from the lyrics for “Safety Dance” by the inimitable Men Without Hats. Note: my husband was terrified I would violate copyright laws so my most popular fabric is named “Safe To Dance.” Close enough to still make me giggle.

WN: Where do you hope to sell your clothing in the future?

CK: I’ve gotten great feedback from customers thus far so I’m excited to roll Ivalieu out to broader circles over the coming months. Ivalieu are currently available for purchase online at and they will be available wholesale to small and regional retailers in the U.S. after the holidays (I’m getting my line sheets all lined up).

WN: Any advice for other female entrepreneurs?

CK: Gosh, there’s so much advice out there for folks starting a business (maybe in 5 years I’ll feel comfortable dispensing advice on running a business ; ) so I’ll share the mantra that propelled me into, and has sustained me thus far in, this entrepreneurial adventure.

Fear less.

Not “fearless,” the adjective like, “Bungee jump off this bridge? No prob.” No, instead, “fear less” like, get rid of what’s unnecessary. Like, “You don’t need to be perfect, just the honest, reasonable best you can do right now right here.” Like, “Feel free to go ahead and do that cartwheel ‘cause you’re wearing Ivalieu.”

As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized my inner voice is actually pretty reliable. But to hear it, to be true to myself, layers of doubt and angst have to be peeled back. Whether it’s anxiety about rejection, embarrassment, falling short of perfection, or even minor criticism; social fear can make a mess of things.

Fear less. My little touchstone that set me down this path and a reminder that there’s strength and freedom in making mistakes.

Plus, it puts in perspective what really matters. When I find I’m second guessing myself, or otherwise feeling off-kilter in this business world it’s usually because I’m afraid of something that while it may not be pleasant, it also won’t kill me. As Frank Turner sings it (sorta), as long as I have family, friends, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food to eat, everything else is no big deal, right?

Thanks for reading! Remember that we award a grant every month – if interested, please apply today.

And if you’d like to vote for Cathy to win the $2,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for her here.

Congrats to Honeymoon Brewery, Our August Qualification Grant Winner!

Monday, September 21st, 2015

After revealing August’s Amber Grant Finalists last week, we’re excited to finally announce our qualification grant winner. Congrats Ayla Bystrom-Williams, owner of Honeymoon Brewery!

Read on to learn all about Ayla and her brewery:

Honeymoon Brewery
Ayla Bystrom-Williams

WN: What is Kombucha and how did you learn about it?

ABW: The text book definition of Kombucha is: it is an ancient fermented tea recipe which originated in Asia. For generations, it has been touted as a panacea for a myriad of ailments, as well as a regimen for continued health. The base of Kombucha is tea (Camillia Sinensis, in the form of black tea, pu erh tea, white tea, oolong tea, or green tea) that is then metabolized by a microbiological culture known as a SCOBY. That is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. The SCOBY metabolizes the sugared tea into a spectrum of beneficial metabolites, and the living colonies themselves are also clinically proven to be probiotic.

The modern understanding of Kombucha: it is a wonderful (to some) effervescent health drink which has gained attention for its health benefits but also has a really fun and recreational nature. Those who are avid kombucha drinkers tend to highlight their interest in the way it makes them feel as well as the way it tastes. Because it becomes alcoholic by nature, it is has been highly regulated since it was pulled off the shelves in 2010. Although the modern understanding of Kombucha is controversial because of this alcoholic nature, I have always found Kombucha to be an extremely interesting profile of a wild, tea based, fermented beverage.

WN: Where is your beer distributed now? Plans for the future?

ABW: Well, although the regional Whole Foods team has expressed a serious interest in our product and has made a verbal agreement to carry our product, we are not currently producing/distributing commercially. Because Kombucha has so many health claims that are not supported we decided to take a step back pre-production and pre-revenue to really embrace the amazing R&D sessions we have been awarded with our collaborators at the Los Alamos National Laboratories. We are one of only maybe a few breweries to be backed by a federal research grant of this magnitude.

Our time is presently spent refining our recipe and intellectual property with the help from our lead researcher at LANL and our patent attorney, as well as putting into motion privately hosted events where we can give away our Kombucha Beer and receive feedback.

Our plans for the coming year are to document a thorough process and recipe for our utility patent, and for all regulatory requirements locally and federally, and to document market intelligence gathered from our private events and crowd funding campaigns. Once we begin commercial production, we plan on fulfilling orders for four regional Whole Foods locations which have shown an interest in signing a contract for our product.

WN: Explain Los Alamos

ABW: The Technical Assistance Funds we received from Los Alamos National Laboratories have been a beautiful and harmonious representation of the hard work it takes to be an entrepreneur. We received these funds after being rejected for a fairly high profile fund, known as the VAF, offered to small businesses here in New Mexico. When we realized we were not the recipient of the VAF, we responded to the coordinators with a thank you email and in passing they mentioned some “other” programs available to small start ups like us. Without a moment of hesitation we came to discover that the Technical Funds were an additional program we were eligible to apply for. Although the Technical Funds do not put money into our start up pockets, we were awarded one year of research with an outstanding Principal Investigator, David Fox who is an incredible bio-organic chemist. Our work with Mr. Fox has been more valuable than any cash funds we might have received up until this point….and we are definitely in need of start up capital. The benefits of gaining scientific capital in lieu of cash capital has been very eye opening for us.

WN: What are your long term goals

ABW: Our long term goals are to be a successful start up with an unusual product. Simply: we want to overcome the hurdles presented to start up companies and especially start up companies which deal with alcohol. Although we are really looking forward to expanding our product line to include other “healthier” beers and alcoholic refreshments such as a Dandelion Root Stout, Kvass, and maybe a New Mexican Style Lambic, we feel like the most important thing to have in our long-term-goal-sights is success, sustainability, and scalability.

WN: What piece of advice would you give other female entrepreneurs just starting out?

ABW: There is no better word than perseverance. Sometimes when being the founder of a start up is beyond challenging, I google stories and quotes of perseverance. I check out books from the library on the subject. It seems there has been no greater limitless well of energy and encouragement for me than reading about the incredible stories of those who have come before us. This is just something that I have found useful; maybe this will be a helpful tool for other female entrepreneurs as well.

Thanks for reading! Remember that we award a grant every month – if interested, please apply today.

And if you’d like to vote for Honeymoon Brewery to win the $2,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for them here.

Sporkables is Our July Qualification Grant Winner!

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

After revealing January’s Amber Grant Finalists last week, we’re excited to announce our qualification grant winner. Congrats Christine Lash, owner of Sporkables!

Read on to learn all about Christine and her company.

Christine Lash

WN: How did you come up with the business name?

CN: “In 2011 I was in a horrible accident which basically ended my career as a commercial chef. As cooking for others is my passion I was crushed both physically and emotionally. I was adrift and did not know what to do. That is, until my son David and his girlfriend Chloe decided to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2014. I wanted to support their dream so I began experimenting with dehydrating various foods. Admittedly there was a learning curve on how to best dehydrate , mix and package these foods but eventually I started to get the hang of it. David reported not only his and Chloe’s excitement about the meals but as well the favorable reviews by their hiking companions out on the trail. As I now appreciate not only were David and Chloe living their dream one step at a time but they were helping create mine.

And so Sporkables was born. David suggested the name: a “spork” is a combination spoon and fork used by hikers. My son- in- law Ned, an art teacher, designed the amazing logo. Emily, my daughter, created and maintains my website. With the input of my hikers I envision, prepare, package and ship the meals. This is a family affair and of course the hikers are now part of our family.”

WN: What’s your most popular menu item?

CN: “It is critical that Sporkables meal options be fresh and exciting. Therefore, I am constantly rotating meals based largely on the feedback I receive. What foods do hikers crave? What comes easy and what is more difficult in terms of preparation? What ratio of carrying weight to calories can I achieve? And, importantly, what measures can I take to keep meals affordable without sacrificing quality? My hikers are my partners and together we get the job done.

Hikers have been so kind and positive in their suggestions and reviews. I am humbled. To date, the biggest sellers have been “Sheepishly Good Shepherds Pie” and “Chickin Lickin Biscuits.” Within the last month I introduced three new meals including “Sopranos Crime Scene Pizza”, “Rock My World Ribolleta Soup” and “Your Invited Sunday Supper.” I am keeping my fingers crossed that these new meals will be well received.”

WN: What areas do you serve?

CN: “Because Sporkables is small I have been cautious in making sure I do not take on too many orders. For the immediate future I am sticking to orders from Appalachian Trail hikers for the most part. As my production capacity expands I intend to market to other hikers such as those on the Pacific Crest Trail and various regional trails. On my radar as well is selling nutritious and healthy meals to shut ins, disabled and older folks who may appreciate the ease with which these meals are prepared.”

WN: What are your goals for the future?

CN: “My dream for the future of Sporkables is tied directly to those of the hikers I supply. This adventure is much more than just about food: my joy, personally and professionally, comes from being able to connect with my hikers one to one, largely through feedback on the food. I often feel as if I share their journey, out in the woods, putting one foot in front of the other. Singing, laughing and of course struggling. It is amazing how preparing food with a spirit of hope and joy connects me to the hiker consuming that food a week or two later. For me, more than all else, this is a journey of the soul.

One step at a time. It is all any of us can do whether we are in the woods or in the kitchen. Sporkables is my step forward.”

Best of luck to Christine as she continues her journey!

Thanks for reading! Remember that we award a grant every month – if interested, please apply today.

And if you’d like to vote for Sporkables to win the $2,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for them here.

Sample Labs Is the Winner of the June Qualification Grant!

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Congratulations to Emma Polster, Co-Founder of SampleLabs, for winning June’s Qualification Grant!

Continue reading to learn more about her company and how they help other businesses!

Sample Labs
Emma Polster

WN: What motivated you to start Sample Labs?

EP: Sample Labs was started to help consumer packaged goods companies iterate quickly on their new products and to help consumers find products that they actually like. My co-founder, Ed, and I created the company less than a year ago. We want to save the world from bad products. Getting back to those brands and the consumers, they are the real reason that we continue to come back everyday and are motivated to keep pushing forward.

We want to help the consumer packaged goods companies make successful products. Instead of putting all of their resources into a handful of new products for the year, we help them gather customer feedback at any demoing event, whether it’s a smaller in-store demo or a large festival. These brands can then start to change and mold their products into something that consumers love and fly right off the shelf.

I think the real reason we have created Sample is for the customers. We want to be that friend that you will turn to and ask about the newest products. The friend, who knows the type of products you like and is just current on the latest stuff and keeps you in the loop. We will not only tell you about the newest products out there, but also where to buy them and who else likes it. Basically, we want to be the one who will introduce you to your next favorite product.

WN: What companies have you worked with? (Or industries if you can’t disclose names.)

EP: Unfortunately we can say any specific names, but in general we work with consumer packaged goods companies. We have been focusing on foods and edible products because our tools are a better fit for them. The customer feedback can be captured the moment the customer tries a product. We will soon be expanding to personal care and household products.

WN: Are there any common themes you’ve found when examining consumer feedback? Or does it vary depending on the product?

EP: The themes and trends that we see are much stronger when we only focus on one brand and even stronger when we really drill down on one specific product. For example, we can figure out what aspects of the flavoring customers like, which can help them market the product better or develop new flavors. We can determine if the packaging stands out on the shelf, or if the price is too high. This type of information can help shape the product even the brand.

But a general trend that we currently see is that many of the smaller brands, who are only a year or two old, have higher percentages of positive feedback than some of these larger brands. For both us and these smaller companies, it is motivation because they know that they have a successful product, it just needs to be seen by more people and made available to them.

WN: How is the business monetized?

EP: Brands sign up for a monthly subscription plan in which they will have the ability to create campaigns. A campaign is a customized two-tap survey that the brands host at their demo station or experiential marketing event. At the end each month, the brand will receive an in-depth analysis of the feedback from their demos. If you don’t enjoy analyzing data, no worries, we will hop on a call with you and explain the data. We want to make sure that the data and insights we gather can become actionable so that they have an effect on the brand and product.

WN: What are your long-term goals for Sample Labs?
EP: At Sample, we like to challenge ourselves. So not only will we continue to capture customer feedback and analyze it, but we also want to start helping with product distribution. It is difficult for some of these smaller brands to get their product out, and for the larger brands, easing distribution can allow them to have more soft launches and test a product. So, we have started creating our first Sampling Machine. This will allow a consumer to walk up to a machine, about the size of a vending machine and try a sample. We are making the saying, “A penny for your thought,” literal. Instead of paying for a sample, we just want to know if you liked it and why or why you didn’t like it.

Best of luck to Emma as she continues her journey!

Thanks for reading! Remember that we award a grant every month – if interested, please apply today.

And if you’d like to vote for Emma to win the $2,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for her here.