Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

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.

Vote RMD Biotech for The WomensNet Amber Grant

Friday, June 5th, 2015

We just announced our May Qualification Grant Winner Katherine Desy, CEO of RMD Biotech.

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

About: RMD Biotech, LLC is a start-up company founded by a Syracuse University alumna, Katherine Desy. Her company has created a silver hydrogel wound dressing which helps wounds maintain a moist environment and keeps bad bacteria away, preventing people from getting sick.

Interested in receiving a grant like Katherine? 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.

RMD Biotech Wins May’s Qualification Grant

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Congratulations to Katherine Desy, founder and CEO of RMD Biotech, for winning the May Amber Grant Award award.
RMD is a start-up biotechnology company that is working to create a patented wound dressing technology.

Continue on to learn all about her inspirational path to entrepreneurship.

Katherine Desy
RMD Biotech, LLC

WN: Share with our readers the genesis of RMD Biotech and what inspired you to enter this endeavor.

KD: This business actually kind of fell into my lap and it started with the name Silver Medical. I just graduated from Syracuse University in May and for my senior capstone project, I had to write a business plan and pitch it to a group of professors and businesspeople. After struggling for a few days to come up with a truly unique idea, I decided to browse the SU Technology Transfer website, since we had spent a lot of time talking about how research is constantly being done but no one is doing anything with it. That’s where I came across the patent for the wound dressing, and the rest is history. My team came in third place in the pitch competition and then I decided to pursue the business for real upon graduation.

WN: What makes this wound dressing unique and so effective?

KD: The components of this wound dressing are actually not so new—silver has been used in gauze for a few years and hydrogel is a common treatment for severe burns. What makes this dressing unique is the manufacturing process behind it. It is not woven but spun on a machine that takes liquid fibers and creates a solid web. While a piece of cotton gauze gets easily soaked through and can rip apart, the silver hydrogel gauze is very tough to rip and maintains its structure on a wound for up to 10 days. The 10 days piece is also important. Have you ever heard of someone keeping gauze on for that long? No, that’s dangerous. This gauze can be kept on that long because it is actively preventing the growth of bacteria all the time.

WN: Talk about the testing process.

KD: Testing was conducted a few years ago before the product was patented, but right now in Syracuse, two professors and two biomedical students are conducting additional efficacy testing. This testing will confirm the safety of the product for humans and confirm that there is no toxicity concern with the amount of silver in the dressing (which is about 1% of the make up).

WN: How will you market the business?

KD: Initially, the focus will be our business consumers like hospitals and clinics. Doctors, nurses, and medical professionals better understand the benefit of this dressing, where home consumers will take longer to educate. To reach these people, I will market the product to Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs), which are the entities who purchase for hospitals in the U.S. A second focus will be on the Department of Defense (DOD) because their focus on technology advances in medicine will benefit amputees, soldiers on the front line, and civilians too.

WN: What are your long-term goals?

KD: My long-term goal for this company is to build a group of innovative products (with much help, of course) that handle all aspects of wound care and the prevention of infection. A second goal would be to build this business internationally because infection issues are even worse in further parts of the world. This may take years, many resources, employees, and time, but I believe in the product, the potential for further products, and wanting people to live better and longer lives.

Visit to stay up to date with what I’m doing!

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

Sassy Bambino Wins April’s Qualification Grant

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Congratulations to Amanda Holdsworth, founder of Sassy Bambino and the Heal-A-Boo-Boo Project, for winning the April Qualification Grant.

Continue on to learn all about her inspirational path to entrepreneurship.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 9.16.09 AM
Sassy Bambino’s Heal-A-Boo-Boo Project
Amanda Holdsworth

WN: Share with our readers the story behind Sassy Bambino and the Heal-A-Boo-Boo Project.

AH: I started {sassy} bambino in 2012 after the birth of my first daughter. I made custom shirts and pants for babies that I eventually sold in an Etsy shop with moderate success. However, in April 2013, we received the devastating diagnosis that our little girl had atrial septal defect, a congenital heart defect that required open heart surgery as soon as possible due to the pressures on her tiny heart. To de-stress, I began making her some custom hospital shirts to wear while recovering from surgery since I thought that the hospital-provided gowns weren’t very cozy, warm or cute. The doctors and nurses went crazy over them because they enabled quick and easy access to check her incision and her pulse…plus, she looked adorable! Other moms asked me where I purchased the cute gowns and a light bulb went off: what a great way to give back to the heart community after they had been so supportive of our family. I closed my Etsy shop and began making and donating the hospital shirts (called Peek-A-Boo-Boo) in August 2013; I have donated close to 300 shirts worldwide since then and have dubbed my efforts, The Heal-A-Boo-Boo Project.

WN: How is your daughter?

AH: Thanks for asking! Our daughter has fully recovered and is heart-healthy. Although her heart will never be “fixed,” it is repaired, and doctors expect her to live a long, healthy life. We just welcomed a second daughter in February–who is heart-healthy–and Avery is relishing in being a big sister. Now three-and-a-half, she enjoys helping me make and package the Peek-A-Boo-Boo shirts for other children.

WN: Do you have any plans to sell your clothing to hospitals?

AH: Yes, I am working on selling the clothing to hospitals as many will not take them as donations due to policies accepting donated goods from individuals. I am currently working with a lawyer to determine the patentability of the Peek-A-Boo-Boo shirts and we will go from there.

WN: What are your long-term goals?

AH: I would like to not only sell mass quantities of the Peek-A-Boo-Boo shirts to hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics, but I also plan to continue donating the shirts to babies and toddlers through The Heal-A-Boo-Boo Project.

WN: Is there anything else that people should know about your endeavor?

AH: The Heal-A-Boo-Boo Project is meant to provide some normalcy for families of babies and toddlers undergoing surgery or other medical treatments. Shirts, legwarmers, bows and shipping fees are funded by private donations and grants, so that patients’ families are not charged. The feedback and gratitude from the families who have received Peek-A-Boo-Boo shirts have been amazing. For those interested in sponsoring a shirt/legwarmer package, they can visit my website.

Hospital visits are no fun…especially for little ones. Nothing helps make them more comfortable than soft cotton wrapping them in a warm hug while ensuring they don’t miss a stylish, tiny step in the adorable Peek-A-Boo-Boo shirts…and I am thrilled I can help put a smile on their faces.

Best of luck to Amanda 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 Amanda to win the $2,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for her here.

People’s Paste Wins March’s Qualification Grant

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

After unveiling our 5 March Amber Grant finalists last weekend, we’re excited to announce the winner — Kristin Brown, Owner of People’s Paste.

Many thanks to Kristin for her time with our interview below. Continue on to learn all about her unique business.


WN: Share with our readers how People’s Paste started, and whether there are any other individuals behind the company.

KB: I started my business as project while finishing my undergraduate degree at the University of New Hampshire, Manchester Campus in the fall of 2010. At the time, I was a wife and mother of 2 children, working full time in the healthcare industry and going to school at night to finish my bachelor’s degree in business. During this time, I enrolled in a course called “Sustainable Business”. This is the course that changed my life. The overarching theme of the course was to teach students about the impact and often unintended consequences of our actions on our planet, our communities and people around the world.

In this class we were tasked with developing a business that is sustainable in every way possible and then pilot our product or service in the marketplace. Our group tossed around several ideas, from soap to organic foods (popcorn, cookies, jams etc.) and finally settled on toothpaste based on a market feasibility study that I conducted. It turns out that toothpaste is very simple to make! In this class I was very fortunate to have a dedicated focus group to test and try the various recipes of toothpaste that I developed. The toothpaste that is known as “People’s Paste” today is based on the final recipe voted best tasting by the class. (I’ve made a few modifications along the way based on customer feedback).

Today, my full-time job is toothpaste. From marketing to production to distribution and finance, I own and operate all aspects of the business. (My husband & kids pitch in when needed!) I anticipate hiring at least one employee by the end of 2015 to assist with production.

WN: Talk about what’s unique about your product.

KB: We all know that organic is better, but rarely do we think about the stuff that we put on our skin, hair, teeth. People’s Paste toothpaste is a safe and effective way of cleaning your teeth and gums without all of the harmful additives. A key differentiator from traditional tube toothpastes is its packaging. People’s Paste is packaged in bottles made from #2 plastic. This means that it can be recycled in your local community, whereas traditional toothpaste packaging cannot!

WN: How is People’s Paste produced?

KB: Right now, People’s Paste is produced in my home in a small room dedicated to toothpaste making. The toothpaste is mixed using a dedicated commercial grade KitchenAid mixer. It’s a lot like baking and just as cathartic! Work is underway to streamline the production process to become more efficient. This is where WomensNet comes in. If awarded the $2000 Amber grant, this money would be used for equipment upgrades to scale production to more easily and efficiently meet our growing demand.

WN: Where is People’s Paste sold? Where do you hope to sell it in the future?

KB: People’s Paste can only be found in various small markets in New Hampshire as well as Wholefoods Markets in Portland, ME and Andover, MA. Growth plans include expanding to all 35 Wholefoods Markets in the North Atlantic Region and selling our product through 3-5 Hannaford stores in NH by the end of 2015. We anticipate expanding into additional territories for both grocery chains 2016. In addition to traditional brick and mortar marketplaces, we envision developing relationships with subscription box companies such as Thrive, Birchbox and Graze. This will broaden our reach to our target market of health conscious individuals who value our planet.

WN: What are your long-term goals for the company?

KB: My vision for People’s Paste is to become a major competitor in the oral care market through expanding our line of natural oral care products. I want all consumers to have easy and affordable access to oral care products that are made in a sustainable and healthy way.

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

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

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.