Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

Hammerstone School Wins February’s Qualification Grant

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Last week, we announced 5 wonderful finalists for the February Amber Grant Award. Today, we’re proud to announce the winner — Maria Klemperer-Johnson, Founder of Hammerstone School.

We thank Maria for taking the time to answer some follow-up questions. Continue on to learn all about her New York based business.

Maria Klemperer-Johnson
Hammerstone School

WN: Share with our readers your motivation for starting Hammerstone School.

Maria: When I started construction work 12 years ago, I already had experience in male-dominated fields – I programmed computers in Seattle for several years, and spent a short time in graduate school in the physical sciences. But it wasn’t until I became a builder that I experienced on a daily basis being the only woman in the room (or on the jobsite). Even in tech, I had women colleagues, albeit not many.
My experience working in the trades in Ithaca, NY, a very progressive town, was always welcoming. I never faced overt harassment or discrimination of the kind I hear from other women working or trying to work in the trades. However, I started to get tired of never having female company at work, and more importantly, always being seen as unusual – I was an “exceptional” woman for doing this work. This usually came in the form of the innocent question “how did you get into this line of work?” While innocuous on the face of it, the fact that it was only ever asked of me and not of my male counterparts made it a sexist question.

As I thought about this issue (and there’s plenty of time to think in carpentry), I realized that the only way not to be seen as exceptional was to get more women doing this work. In fact, we have to reach about 30% women in a line of work before it is seen as “normal” work for women. Currently, only 3% of carpenters are women, and that’s a statistic that hasn’t changed over the past 30 years. We have a long way to go.

I started Hammerstone School to improve that percentage, and our hope is to inspire others to do the same thing in their own communities.

WN: How big are the class sizes? What’s your favorite class to teach?

Maria: Our class sizes average about 8 students. Our maximum is 12 with two teachers.

My favorite class to teach is our 2-day Basic Carpentry Skills 101 course. We teach this course at least once a month throughout the year, so it gives me the opportunity to meet a wide array of women. I’m always overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of my students – clearly they are hungry for this program, and there are very few other opportunities like it. I love hearing their diverse stories of why they are interested in learning to build, and what their previous experiences have been. I leave every class with 8-12 new friends and allies in our mission to bring gender equality to the trades.

WN: On the website, we saw that women can request a specialty course. What are some of your favorite projects that have unfolded from that?

Maria: There are two specialty courses that I’m really excited to be working on right now.

The first is working with Rayna, a student from the Lehman Alternative Community School in Ithaca, NY. Rayna approached me because she wants to build a mobile farm stand for her senior project. We decided that putting together a Hammerstone class would be the best way for the farm stand to get built and at the same time teach skills to a group of young women. Rayna is doing all the work to organize the class, from lining up students to writing grant proposals to subsidize the materials costs and tuition for the course. In this way, we can reach a more diverse group of young women for whom the tuition could be prohibitive. The winnings from this grant will go directly into that scholarship fund.

Another project I’m working on for the fall is to teach basic carpentry to a group of Japanese women tourists. I am working with a couple from Ithaca’s EcoVillage who have been organizing Japanese tours around ecological building and co-habitation. They approached Hammerstone about creating a class that would cater to the burgeoning DIY movement in Japan.

WN: We saw that you build ‘Tiny Houses’ in your classes. Did that originally start out as a personal project?

Maria: It did not start as a personal project, but in a way has become one. In fact, the tiny house courses were what got Hammerstone started in the first place.

In early January of 2013, an acquaintance, Liz, approached me at a CSA distribution at the vegetable farm where she was working. “I’d like to build a tiny house” she said, “but I don’t have any carpentry skills. Do you think I can do it? And where should I go to learn how?” Teaching women to build had been an idea percolating in my head for several years at that point, so when she asked these questions, I answered: “YES! I think you can. And don’t go anywhere. We’ll organize a class around building your tiny house.”

This was the birth of Hammerstone School and was the first iteration of our organizing classes around tiny house construction. In that first year, we taught two classes spread over 6 Saturdays each. We could only attract students who lived close enough to travel each day of class. Even with this limited audience, we more than filled both of the classes structured around Liz’s tiny house. It became clear to me that we were filling a niche begging to be filled, so by 2014, Hammerstone School became my full time business.

Liz’s house wasn’t completed in our classes (a week long Hammerstone course can usually finish the framing of a tiny house), but she worked alongside us in the following months to complete the building. In the meantime, we became great friends, and “Tiny” is now parked in my backyard. Liz continues to consult on the business, helping with writing and giving guidance from the perspectives of both a tiny house client and a former student. She also generously allows us to use her house as a model home for prospective tiny house clients.
While I love the idea of tiny houses, and love building them, my own family is too big (6 kids) to practically consider one myself.

WN: What are your long-term goals for Hammerstone?

Maria: I have big visions for Hammerstone!

Right now the business consists of the school and a contracting business. In the school, we are working to develop a wider variety of courses that appeal to both hobbyists and women looking for a career in the trades. Right now, all our courses are short form a-la-carte classes. Students can pick and choose from the 2-day to week-long classes that appeal to them. Our hope is to start longer term programs (semester to year long) that give women an opportunity to learn the process of homebuilding from start to finish, as well as develop programs that work on finer woodcraft.

Within our contracting division, our goal is to continue the education of women in the trades by providing real on the job training through apprenticeship programs. Right now we are building a team of women who are dedicated to teaching and who can manage jobs and train apprentices. This is a long term process, so we won’t be accepting apprentices for a couple of years. In the meantime, we will be building the reputation of Hammerstone Construction as high quality craft builders focused on energy efficient houses and using as many natural materials as possible.

Other goals for Hammerstone include writing children’s books that celebrate women in the trades, developing our line of carpentry outfits for American Girl dolls, and building a carpentry-based maker space where locals (especially kids) have access to tools and resources to build with wood.

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

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

PinkThink Wins January’s Qualification Grant

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

After revealing January’s Amber Grant Finalists last Monday, we’re happy to announce our third qualification grant winner, Makeda Ricketts, founder of PinkThink.

Read on to learn all about Makeda and her company.

Makeda Ricketts


WN:Talk about the concept of PinkThink and how you arrived at that name.

MR: The disconnect between STEM subjects and girls was something that had been bothering me for a while. I had worked with a lot of organizations that were geared towards enriching the education of girls outside the classroom but often had trouble keeping girls engaged in subjects like math and science.

However, the real catalyst for me starting PinkThink was my little sister. As she got older I really wanted to create something for her and girls like her that would that would keep them engaged in STEM subjects.

The first thing I did when starting PinkThink is ask girls what was keeping them from being interested in STEM. A common response was that they found STEM boring and wanted it to be more inline with their interests. The main focus of PinkThink is bridging the gap between STEM education and the social and fun activities that tween girls typically enjoy.

Another recurring response from girls was that girls are not typically good at STEM or would have to work really hard to learn STEM subjects like math. I came up with the name PinkThink to get girls to think about STEM as something that is natural, intuitive and part of their everyday lives.

WN:Currently, girls can design their own virtual nail polish on the website. What other products will be unveiled down the line?

MR: Our first game PinkEngineer is designed to teach girls STEM by having them develop, design and market a variety of products. We started with nail polish because girls really wanted that to be the first product. We just had another testing session with nine girls right before we launched the game and they told us they really want lip-gloss to be the next product. They even told us the types of bottle designs they want, etc. so we are currently working on creating a lip-gloss version of the game.

Also, a lot of girls have expressed an interest in having DIY chemistry activities that they can do at home, so we are also working on creating an activity center that would teach girls how to create these products in real life.

WN: How will you monetize the business?

MR: We currently work with a lot of charter schools. They have already bought games that we have designed specifically for their after-school programs and certain classes. Although we offered PinkEngineer for free, we do plan to start charging the general public for our games as well, starting with a fun coding game we are offering in March.

WN: What does the future hold for PinkThink? What are your long-term goals?

MR: We plan to create an array of games for each of the four areas of STEM. We started with Engineering but now we really wanted to focus on Technology. Our next game we are working on is a coding game that will teach girls programming skills. We are really excited about it and the feedback from girls has been amazing. We plan to launch the game in March.

Long term I really want to expand PinkThink and create a foundation focused on closing the digital divide that exists due to economic and social inequalities. I think it is imperative that kids in inner cities and also in third world counties learn STEM and have the skills to not only make use of the current technology but also to innovate and create new technologies.

As always, thank you for reading! Remember we award a grant every month – if interested, here’s the link to apply!

If you’d like to vote for Makeda to win the $2,000 Amber Grant you can vote for her here.

The Functional Pelvis Wins December’s Qualification Grant

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

After announcing December’s finalists this past Friday we’re happy to announce our second qualification winner, Lindsey Vestal founder of the Functional Pelvis.

Read on to learn more about Lindsey and what her company does.

Lindsey Vestal
The Functional Pelvis

WN: For those that aren’t familiar with your line of business, would you mind providing a short summary of what the Functional Pelvis is?

LV: The Functional Pelvis is a private physical and occupational therapy practice dedicated to improving the lives of women and men who suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction and complications.

Though an embarrassing dinner topic for some, pelvic floor dysfunction affects millions of people (43 million people suffer from incontinence, ranking higher than other chronic diseases such as diabetes, which affects 21 million.) Many don’t know that proven therapeutic exercises and non-surgical treatments are available, which can drastically improve their quality of life when suffering from urinary and bowel urgency, frequency, chronic constipation, pelvic organ prolapse and pelvic pain.

The Functional pelvis empowers people to regain control of the most basic human functions. And we offer this in the privacy and convenience of people’s own homes. My clientele includes pre- and postnatal women, post-menopausal women, men with prostate issues, and both men and women with gastrointestinal issues and pelvic pain.

I find it such a privilege to enable people to talk about topics that can often be challenging to discuss; I enjoy helping them to feel comfortable and at ease. Once they find pelvic rehab, I often hear how comforting is it that someone finally understands the challenges that they have been dealing with for often many years. The topics that I discuss and treat are often overlooked by most practitioners either because they don’t know how to ask the right questions or the patient may be uncomfortable to bring it up. I have heard topics like incontinence described as the “hand on the doorknob” conversation. If a patient actually feels comfortable bringing it up to their gynecologist or general practitioner, it may be as they are leaving. I take great pride in that these same topics are brought up when my patients walk in the door, not when they leave.

WN: What first made you want to become an Occupational Therapist?

LV: Occupational therapy (OT) focuses on getting clients back to being able to participate and enjoy life again. What’s even better is that OTs roots are in mental health – this means that OTs treat the whole person, whether the primary dysfunction relates to physical or mental health, or as is more than likely the case, a combination of both. This holistic viewpoint is what first fascinated me with the profession; I loved looking at all the factors that contributed to a person’s ailment. This viewpoint significantly helps people with pelvic floor muscle dysfunction because while it’s a physical dysfunction, it greatly impacts psychosocial issues.

When I became aware that the muscles in the pelvic floor were just like any other muscle in the body, I realized that I could make a significant on the quality of life of the people I work with. People often become very withdrawn from participating fully their lives when incontinence or pelvic pain becomes a struggle for them. It is so rewarding to be able to empower them to take control over the very basic function of bowel and bladder management.

WN:Do you find clients are more willing to ask for help when they can receive treatment from the privacy of their own home?

LV: By providing care in the privacy of my patient’s home, it directly leads to better outcomes because they are much more comfortable being in their own space versus a more clinical or busy environment such as a gym. Also, it’s a privilege to treat them in their own space because I can suggest home modifications that help promote their healing such as assessing their toilet height or their bed and sleeping positions. For new mothers, we look at body mechanics such as crib and changing table height, holding the baby, best breast feeding positions, etc. My clients don’t need to worry about travel or even finding childcare. When you experience urinary or bowel issues, it can be hard to even just leave the house. The concept of providing therapy in-home for pelvic floor dysfunction is practical and sensitive to the problem their experiencing.

Here’s an example. One of my patients is a writer who spends 10 hours a day sitting at his home office. He was experiencing pain in his rectum with sitting and with defecation.

While at his home, I assessed the chair he uses to write, his dining room chair and couch, and his toilet height (a contributing factor to pelvic floor dysfunction). I was able to suggest home modifications and could tailor it specifically for his environment while I was in his apartment. This model of specialized, specific care is exactly what I needed when I had my own pelvic floor muscle dysfunction.

WN: Is any medication required during the treatment process?

LV: No, the wonderful thing about this type of rehab is its conservative nature. There is no surgical intervention or medication requirement. It really is just rehab for your private muscles. It is not so different than if you injured your knee and you sought therapy to regain function. My goal is to get help my clients stronger, reduce pain, and go to the bathroom with ease.

WN: Any plans to expand your practice outside of the New York City Region?

LV: My mobile rehab model includes Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. My expansion plan includes hiring a large staff of Occupational and Physical Therapists to further serve the greater NY city region whose population is nearly 20 million people! For the foreseeable future, we may be quite busy reaching as many of these people as we can : )


As always, thank you for reading! Remember we award a grant every month – if interested, here’s the link to apply!

If you’d like to vote for Lindsey to win the $2,000 Amber Grant you can vote for her here.

Stretch Recipes Wins The First Qualification Grant!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

We’re excited to announce we have our first Qualification Grant Winner! Congratulations Lauren Foster, CEO of Stretch Recipes.

Last week we introduced Stretch Recipes to you along with November’s four other qualification finalists.

Since then we interviewed Lauren to learn a little more about herself, her chef, and the Stretch app…

Lauren Foster
Stretch Recipes

WN: Do you or your brother use the Stretch app to help save on money?

LF: There’s a huge hope that we both will. I know that I will! I can’t wait to go grocery shopping with it for the first time.   We are building it so that it empowers users that are already stretched for time and money to make delicious and nutritious menu plans for their families.   We’re still signing people up to test. It’d be great to have more sign-ups on our website so we can make it the best grocery tool on the market.

(Here’s the link to test the Stretch Recipes App!)

WN: I saw that the app sends coupons too. Are those tailored to your specific shopping list?

LF: The App’s coupons will match the items on the shopping list. Therefore, if you’re making beef lasagna for dinner, we will match them to available coupon/offers.

WN: When filling out the form to test the app I noticed we had to tell you what foods we dislike. Will the app incorporate that into our specific shopping lists?

LF: Yes, you will be able to eliminate food dislikes or can’t haves. So if you’re allergic to chickpeas, recipes that are chickpea based won’t factor. If you don’t like mushrooms, as long as it’s not a key ingredient, when you select the recipe, it won’t show up on your shopping list.

WN: Could this application work for college students?

LF: Absolutely! We’re working on adding more non-stove recipes that students can easily create in their dorms without having to fall back to only ramen.

WN: How did you meet Jonathan Freeman, your Stretch Chef?

LF: A friend of mine, Aimee was a Manager at the Daily Grill in Austin. Before she moved, she told me she had someone for me to meet. She introduced me to Jonathon. This was before I ever knew I would be starting this mission. So about 8 months or so later, I was just starting the company and validating the idea. I also got the opportunity to do a cooking class for 20 people who worked daily with my initial target market. The night before the event, the Chef flaked on me. I called Aimee because I she knew plenty of people in Food & Beverage. She said, “Why don’t you call Jonathon?” She gave me his number. I told him about starting my mission and he immediately said, “Yes! I’d love to teach people and test out recipes.” He came and the class went perfectly! He’s had my back ever since.

WN: Is there a set date for the app to release? And what devices will it be available on?

LF: It’ll be on all devices with web access. We’re going to start with the web until we get everything tested and down to a science. Then, we’ll go native on Android and iOS.   We haven’t set a date yet, but we’re ambitious and targeting Spring 2015 for a limited group in Austin to have access to the web app.


As always, thank you for reading! Remember we award a grant every month – if interested, here’s the link to apply!

If you’d like to vote for Lauren to win the $2,000 Amber Grant you can vote for her here.

Solar Puff Announced October’s Amber Grant Winner!

Monday, November 17th, 2014

The results are in! After reviewing October’s finalists our judges have finally made their decision on our 2014 October Amber Grant recipient. Huge congratulations to Alice Chun, founder of Solight Designs, Inc.

Alice and her team are the proud inventors of SolarPuff, the first flat, packable, and inflatable solar lantern.  The lantern is designed to provide an affordable and renewable light source to disaster relief victims all over the world. SolarPuff is the first flat packable and inflatable solar lantern. It is designed to provide an affordable and renewable light source to disaster relief victims.

Solar puff uses the principles of origami and foldable design to “pop” open from a flat envelop into a cube with a very simple pull motion to diffuse the light after charging. It’s a lightweight solution that can be packaged, stored, and shipped with ease.

Our team thought her product had so much potential and we’re eager to share it with you.

Girl and Solar Puff
Alice Chun
Solight Designs, Inc

WN: How did the idea of using an origami design for the lamp come to you?

AC:I had been experimenting with origami in my design projects and was fascinated by the clean adaptability of the form and the flat pack ability of folding in origami.
My son also was learning this while I was developing the design


WN: Do the solar lamps need a certain amount of light or time to charge?

AC: Yes they need 5 hours for 5-8 hours of light


WN: What’s the next step for Solight Designs if you receive your patent?

AC: We are already in contract with a distributor in japan to sell the solar puff in the camping market and disaster relief market in japan.


WN: Will the SolarPuff be available for purchase in the United States?

AC: Yes! We are planning on selling in the US this month!


WN: Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs in the green industry?

AC: My advice is to never ever give up on your dreams; no matter what downfalls you may have, or no matter how many people tell you you’re wrong. You just have to keep going and find the people that are like minded, that believe it’s possible. Then eventually it will happen just because you perceiver.

“The surest way to fail, is to give up.”


As always, thank you for reading! Remember we award a grant every month – if interested, here’s the link to apply!

Puffs Preserves Wins September Amber Grant

Friday, October 10th, 2014

We recently announced the five finalists for September and today we are excited to finally share our Amber Grant winner!

Congratulations Kirsten Farabi, owner of Puff’s Preserves!

Puffs Preserves KF
Kirsten Farabi
Puff’s Preserves


WN: For those who haven’t visited your website yet, tell us a little more about your creation and what sparked your idea.

KF: I used to teach history! I have always been fascinated with past cultures, politically and socially. The Jazz Age, Prohibition Era always seemed like such an interesting time to me. This is when my family came to the United States in search of a new beginning as well. My grandfather started his own business, but of course, saw the opportunity to bootleg sugar and spirits (like most folks at that time). My grandmother taught me from a young age how to preserve our bounty on the farm; always creatively and full of spices, herbs, and unique flavors. Together, they were the inspiration for my boozy jams. My branding is inspired by this part of US history, and named after my grandfather Hugo “Puff” Farabi.  I use Colorado spirits, and non GMO, fresh, organic ingredients.

WN: Do you have a favorite Boozy Jam?

KF: It’s hard to pick a favorite because all of the flavors are so different! I will say the most popular flavor overall is the Blackberry Bourbon Lavender. I make it with local honey instead of sugar, and the lavender adds a unique herbal note.

WN: When will people be able to purchase your Jam online?

KF: Customers will be able to order a mixed six-pack of jam online at the end of November. I am currently redoing my labels and jars. The new jars will make a great drinking glass when it is emptied!

WN: What’s the next step for Puff’s Preserves?

KF: As we speak, I am waiting for the landlord to arrive to show me an open space in Denver! The next steps for Puff’s are to find my own space to call home where I can cook my jams, sell local provisions, and run a speakeasy in the basement where I’ll serve cocktails made with my jams. Exciting times!

WN: Do you have any advice for other women entrepreneurs?

KF: It may sound cliché, but my advice to female entrepreneurs is to make sure you love what you do. There will be days you have to remind yourself why you started. Persevere, and push through the difficult times. There will be set backs, mundane tasks (accounting!), critics (they laugh at you, then they copy you), and a learning curve. You only learn from making mistakes. All of this makes you a better businesswoman in the end. Be tough as nails, but wear fabulous and comfortable shoes.


Thank you for reading! Remember we award an Amber Grant every month – if interested, here’s the link to apply! We hope you all have a great weekend!