Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized’ Category

May Amber Grant Awarded to Amazingly Uplifted

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

On Saturday, we announced our May Amber Grant finalists.  Today we’re here to reveal the $1,000 recipient and the qualifier for our $10,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Veronica Crafton, Owner of Amazingly Uplifted. Veronica’s mission is to support children, educators and families through school consulting and in-home therapy. She shares her story with us in the interview below.

WN: Tell us your background and how that motivated you to launch Amazingly Uplifted.

VC: In 2006 I fell in love with children with autism while working at Emory’s Autism Preschool in Atlanta, GA. Two years later I became a teacher for students with autism and severe behaviors. By 2013 I recognized flaws in our education system, particularly how some students did not receive effective support from their previous classroom. I’d just won teacher of the year and knew my talents weren’t to be contained in one classroom. I applied for a teacher trainer position but was encouraged to take a more administrative position — a position that I absolutely did not want!

As it turns out, being rejected for the trainer position was the best thing that happened to me because that’s when I decided to quit. I left my teaching career, closed on a house and started a business on the same day. Sounds crazy, but I knew everything would work out and it has. We have continuously grown every year and year 5 is on track to be the biggest year yet!

I was also motivated to leave because I knew children with autism needed more support at school and at home. I’ve seen how much support families need. I’ve been working with families privately in addition to my full time job since 2007 and even lived with an autism family for a year and a half while in grad school. Children with autism are often FAR more capable than we give them credit for. Our name, Amazingly Uplifted, describes how the children I’ve encountered inspire me as an educator. They are amazing and keep me uplifted every single day!

WN: What kind of feedback have you received from schools?

VC: Our teachers mean the world to us and their feedback has been encouraging. They have been very appreciative of the support we’ve provided in their classrooms and often request that we return the following school year. Please feel free to head over to our website to see some of their testimonials!

WN: What type of competition do you face in the Atlanta area – and how do you stand out?

VC: There are several companies that provide the same services as AU. As cliche as it may sound, I don’t consider them to be competition. Autism is a spectrum disorder. That means that children are affected by autism in a variety of ways and no two children are just alike. The spectrum also refers to families. Just like children are different, families are different and may have different needs. The other businesses may be able to meet the needs of some families that another can not and with the current prevalence of autism (1 in every 59 children according to the CDC) we need as many providers as possible.

Amazingly Uplifted does have some unique qualities that separate us from other service providers. We presume competence for every child that we encounter. We understand that just because 1 child may not be able to communicate in the way we are accustomed to doesn’t equate a lack of intellect. An inability to speak does not equate to an inability to understand. The treatment plans and goals that we set for our clients focus on skills that lead to independence.

Part of our success in schools has been the ability to relate to the classroom teacher. All of our consultants have worked in the classroom either as a teacher or role that supports teachers. This builds trust with the educators we serve because they know we can identify with the challenges they face. The plans we develop for classroom and behavior management are often plans that we used and know to be effective not only from our education but from our experience in the classroom. There are also very few companies that offer classroom coaching after professional developments. This type of wrap-around service helps teachers implement what they’ve learned immediately due to the direct support they receive from one of our consultants shortly after the training.

WN: How do you plan to use the grant money?

VC: The first thing we would do with the grant money is use $1,000 to start a scholarship initiative for families that can not afford in-home therapy for their child with autism.

Should I win the year-end Amber Grant, part of the $10,000 would cover approximately seven months of office space. Having seven months of free office space would allow us to save funds to insure sustainability. The remaining funds would go directly to materials needed for the children that would receive our services in the clinic (.i.e. sensory items, toys, educational games, etc.).

The clinic would be used for multiple purposes. Aside from providing one-on-one support for children we will be able to facilitate social skills groups as well as parent training. Social skills groups are essential in assisting children with autism learn appropriate play skills and social pragmatics. Unfortunately it is difficult to capture authentic opportunities to practice these skills. Having a designated and controlled environment will significantly help us serve our children more comprehensively.

Having a clinic would also give parents an opportunity to connect with other parents. Despite how skilled and experienced professionals are, parents learn the most from other parents. We want to create a space that is just as supportive for parents as it is for children. We will offer parent trainings and reach out to our mental health partners to facilitate individual, group and family therapy.

WN: What advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur.

VC: 1. Use your job to build your value and habits. If your job offers training courses, take them. If they offer to pay for certifications or degrees that would benefit you, take advantage. It’s also important to build your habits. Get that report in early, train a new hire, get in a management position, turn things in on time, keep your appointments, and work with integrity. Many people say, “Well if I were working for myself I would care more and get my work done.” While this is true to some extent it’s important to remember that you do what you practice and correcting poor habits is harder than learning something new. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect!

2. Learning what not to do is sometimes just as important as learning what to do. Find people who are doing it the right way AND the wrong way so that you don’t make those same mistakes. Research people who have failed, find out what they did, and don’t do that. It will save time and money!

3. Speaking of money…SAVE SAVE SAVE. Entrepreneurship is really sexy these days. Some people will try to convince you that you aren’t serious about your dream if you aren’t willing to quit your job today. Wrong! Take as much time as you need to save money for your household and business. Risk will always be there but there are some things you can avoid by having a financial plan. I saved for six years and I’m glad I did! To this day I have not borrowed a single penny and plan on keeping by business debt free.

3. Mentorship is essential. Obviously you should find someone in your field but don’t be afraid to have multiple mentors for different areas of your life. The sooner you learn balance the better because entrepreneurship is all consuming. You don’t want to end up despising what you once loved because of burn out.

4. We are women and we are powerful. We can do absolutely anything. Don’t doubt yourself because you are capable and the world needs everything you have to offer. You and your gifts are valuable so please share them!

*A huge thank you and congratulations to Veronica for taking the time for our interview. We’re already reviewing applications for the June Amber Grant, so if you’re interested in applying, please take a look at our application

April Amber Grant Awarded to Cyant

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

On Wednesday, we revealed our April Amber Grant finalists.  Today we’re here to announce the $1,000 recipient and the qualifier for our $10,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Barbara Hanna, Founder of Cyant.  Barbara and her talented team have a goal of connecting art and tech to foster learning and creativity.

So… how are they attacking that goal?  Let’s get the lowdown from Barbara.

WN: Share some background on yourself and how Cyant came to life.

BH: I bring a technical background, with a PhD in Computer Vision. I have had the opportunity to work on a number of technology and application areas, and in recent years my attention has turned to 3D printing and related technologies.

This is a very disruptive field, one that uniquely bridges the gap between digital and physical. It also brings together all types of people, backgrounds and disciplines, from art to engineering. It is always inspiring and exciting to read the latest advances in the field, which is already giving rise to tremendous innovation. It’s also a fast growing industry, which is poised to reach ~$20bn by 2020, with potentially significant impact in industries from fashion to medical to space exploration, in addition to creating new paths for design, production and sustainability!

So, this area is bringing great opportunities — and for the next generation of creators and builders in particular. Nonetheless, it is also raising a few challenges and needs to address. For example, making 3D modeling and 3D printing accessible and intuitive, which are two of the problems that are a focus at Cyant.

With a mission to foster learning, creativity and engagement through the connection of art and technology, our goal is to develop software products and services that can empower a diverse community of  young “cyantists” to learn and create new things in new ways. Our first product, Cyant’s Lab™, is an app that lets kids of all ages easily create 3D models.

WN: Explain what functionality the current app provides. 

BH: Our iPad app enables kids to create 3D models by doing something known to humans since prehistoric times: drawing! The app automatically turns those drawings and writings into 3D models. Models can be free drawn, but the app also offers a selection of templates as guides.

To make it particularly accessible to younger kids, the base version of the app has an intuitive, simple interface, with the possibility to add more tools and features in the future. Since not everyone has a 3D printer, 3D Prints of the models can be ordered and delivered via a partner 3D printing service. The app also provides articles to learn more about 3D printing, as well as pioneers in the field who can be inspirational models for young cyantists. So Cyant’s Lab™ can be used to very easily create and 3D print designs, from ornaments to components of more involved arts or crafts projects or educational activities.

WN: How long does it take the product to reach the customer once a design is submitted?

BH: For the first version of Cyant’s Lab™, the assumption is that not everyone has a 3D printer. We have been working with a partner 3D printing service (Sculpteo) which can achieve a rapid turn around. They can fulfill the order and deliver it within a week if there is a need for fast handling and shipping. This service offers a range of materials (including metal) and 3D printing technologies. So in general, the exact handling timeframe may depend on the order, but the prints are high quality, professional grade right off the bat.

This being said, for those who have a 3D printer, we plan to offer the ability to have access to the 3D model files. And depending on the model and print settings, the printing time can be fairly rapid. That’s critical in a setting like a classroom.

WN: Talk about the educational workshops you offer. Beyond those events, is there potential for partnering with schools?

BH: By nature, there is a significant focus on STEAM learning at Cyant and throughout the educational workshops we organize. We work to create art-meets-tech experiences that are project driven, and allow for individual creativity to be stimulated, while maintaining a level of collaboration. And while learning about 3D printing is weaved into the workshop, true to our mission, other areas maintain an important place too. It’s always wonderful and fun to see what kids (including the big ones known as grown ups) learn and create!

We have had the opportunity to explore educational activities in school settings and have received great feedback. So yes, there is definitely potential for partnering with schools!

WN: What advice would you give to an aspiring female entrepreneur?

BH: First, don’t hesitate to try. Try not to let self-doubt get in the way. Entrepreneurship is a journey with ups and downs. There may be 10 no’s before there is one yes, and there may be unexpected, time consuming roadblocks.

So it is important to persevere and draw lessons for the next steps. And try and find networks, friends, mentors who can provide input, feedback and guidance. Along the way, make sure to keep sight of the internal passion, or idea or mission that made it all start in the beginning! Oh, and, it may be hard, but remember to switch off from time to time, too.

Thanks to Barbara for her time, and congratulations once again on earning the April Amber Grant.  With May in full swing, we’re already considering candidates for the May Amber Grant. If you’re a woman-business owner, please consider applying today or sharing our grant with someone in need.

 

March Amber Grant Awarded to Norma

Friday, April 6th, 2018

On Monday, we announced our March Qualification Grant finalists. Today, we’re thrilled to introduce our winner, Lauryn Dempsey, Co-Founder/CEO of Norma

Norma’s mission is to empower women to take charge of their breast health. How are they doing so?  And how can you get involved?  Read our interview below and view their quick video to find out.

WN: Share with our readers some background on yourself and the genesis of Norma.

LD: To say Norma came out of nowhere is an understatement. Seven weeks ago, only two of the six women who co-founded Norma even knew each other. Our team formed in mid-February at Techstars Startup Weekend Women in Denver and we were drawn together after hearing Amelia pitch her idea to create a breast health app. From Friday night until Sunday afternoon, we researched breast health trends, identified market gaps, tested our product ideas with women, and finally came up with a solution to build an all-inclusive breast health app with a connected breast self exam reminder device. On Sunday afternoon, nine teams from the event pitched their company ideas to five judges and Norma was the unanimous winner.

As Denver’s Startup Weekend’s winning team, we won a trip to Paris to compete in a Global Startup Weekend Women pitch event on Mar. 7, 2018. Over the course of the next three weeks, we worked hard to build out our business model, better understand women’s breast health needs, and launch a basic breast self exam journal app before the competition. Of the 22 teams from 15 countries that participated, Norma took home third place!

While in Paris, we learned that we had been accepted to participate in the University of Colorado’s New Venture Challenge (NVC) in March. The three-week competition wrapped up on April 4 and we took home three awards: Women’s Entrepreneurship Prize, 3rd Place in the IT track finals, and audience choice award. Not only that, of the 117 teams that participated in the competition, we were awarded the third highest amount of prize money, which is invaluable as we bootstrap Norma and work hard and fast to bring her to life.

Needless to say, the past seven weeks have been a whirlwind, yet we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Not only are we a majority-student team, but four of us have personal family experience with breast cancer and we all know we are working on a problem much greater than ourselves. Something really special and unique happened that cold, snowy weekend in February that’s left a team of six women on a mission to help women around the world take control of their breast health and learn their ‘normal’ so they can detect something that’s not.

WN: Take us through how the app currently works. What upgrades do you have planned for the future?

LD: We launched a basic breast self exam journal app in early March as a way to test our concept and understand how women use the app. Over the course of the next few months, we will expand the journal’s functionality, as well as build out new features to include adding a breast health resource section, a community connect tab, and an ability to share data and journal entries with a doctor. In the future, we’d like to incorporate telemedicine so that no matter where a woman might be, or whether she has health insurance or not, she can always connect with a medical professional if she has breast health concerns.

As we build out our app, we will also be building an app-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) device that signals a woman to perform her exam. In our interviews with hundreds of women, we learned that the biggest reason they don’t perform exams is because they forget. We know an app notification doesn’t always spur action and that’s why we are building this simple piece of hardware to help women form a lifelong habit of monthly breast self exams.

Further, we are determined to have Norma be an all-inclusive breast health resource. While breast cancer and other breast health issues primarily impact women, men and the LGBTQIA community are affected by breast issues, too. Additionally, when someone receives news they have breast cancer, they aren’t the only ones touched by the diagnosis. It’s our hope that Norma also becomes the go-to resource for minority groups battling the disease, as well as for the countless friends and family members supporting loved ones battling breast cancer.

WN: What is your marketing strategy?

LD: Our goal is to launch a fully-functional app and begin taking IoT device pre-orders in October 2018, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month. October is six months away and we don’t want to wait until then to start helping women change their breast health habits. That’s why we launched the Norma Network of Breast Friends on Apr. 1! Each month on the first, Team Norma and our Breast Friend brand advocates text the women in our lives a reminder to perform her breast self exam and to #feelitonthefirst.

Through this grassroots campaign, our goal is to get women to start taking a proactive approach to their health, while also building brand recognition and loyalty. We love the work our Breast Friends do to instill healthy habits and will be featuring them on our blog and inviting them to test our app and IoT device before we launch.

We’re actively seeking more Breast Friends so please send us an email if you’d like to join: founders@knowyournorma.com

WN: What are your goals for the year ahead, and how can the grant money help you reach them?

LD: The next six months are a sprint for Norma as we build, test and iterate (and repeat!) our products with the goal of launching in October. It’s certainly ambitious, but we have proven our ability to work together to achieve milestones and we’re confident we can meet the October deadline we’ve set for ourselves. It’s pretty rare to have as large of a co-founding team as ours, but the amazing thing about it is that we have nearly all the tech and business skills required to bring Norma from idea to reality. With help from WomensNet, we are able to start reaching out to manufacturers to build our IoT device prototype and to better understand mass quantity production costs. We anticipate raising a seed round starting in mid-May, but with this Qualification Grant, we can address the business needs now that all companies face when starting out.

Thank you, WomensNet, for your help in making Norma come alive!

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

LD: Show up, put yourself out there, and find a team to support you in your journey. There are going to be highs and lows and you need a solid network around to get you through trying times. If you ever have doubts, think about the regret you would feel if you didn’t take a chance on yourself or your idea and just keep driving forward. You can do it and there are so many women ready and willing to assist you!

February Amber Grant Awarded to Don’t Forget The List

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

February marked another exciting and competitive month. Today, though, we’re thrilled to announce the 2nd Qualification Grant recipient of 2018 — Lisa Buie, Co-Founder of Don’t Forget The List.

DFTL is a unique company that specializes in planning Surprise Travel, Mystery Group Tours and Bucket List Tours. Lisa shares much more in our interview below.

​WN: ​Share the story of how Don’t Forget The List came about

LB: We first had the idea for our unique travel company at a moment in our lives when we were stressed out from the daily grind. We wanted to go somewhere, but didn’t know where, so we threw a dart at a map and set out on a weekend adventure. After recovering from a spontaneous road trip involving The Mothman, a haunted hotel in West Virginia, a dead cave and an epic horseback ride into the mountains of Kentucky, the light bulb lit and we decided we HAD to plan trips like this for other people.  The idea has grown and developed to now include group Mystery Tours as well.

The same spontaneous trip inspired us to start a yearly Bucket List of items that we add to and check off every year.  Our yearly Bucket Lists include items like skydiving, swimming with sharks and performing at an open mic night.  We believe that if you focus too much on the destination you miss the ride, and our company has been developed around inspiring others to have the same experiences.  “The List” in our company name refers to all of our Bucket Lists!

Our adventurous travelers have told us that waiting to know where they are going is one of the best parts, which tells us we are on the right track

The full story of our first epic trip can be found on our blog.

WN: Where are some destinations you’ve worked with and how do you decide on those destinations?

LB: While we don’t want to give away all our surprises, we can say that we love to craft unique surprise experiences for individual travelers as well as our group tours! We look for off the beaten path and unique locations to pleasantly surprise our customers.  For example, imagine sleeping in a luxury treehouse or snowmobiling to Old Faithful!  We meet with Destination Managers and Tour Suppliers from across the country to identify and select the places we send our travelers.  These colleagues ensure the locations and activities we send our customers to live up to our high standards.

WN: How do you strive to separate Don’t Forget The List from market competition?

LB: While offering Surprise Travel and Mystery Tours sets us apart, we also have other pretty awesome reasons we stand apart from our competition.

We love our amazing planet and want to ensure it is healthy for the next generation to explore.  Because we know the travel industry is inherently “dirty”, with all the carbon emissions involved in car, bus, train and air travel, we purchase carbon offsets for all of our trips, so our customers can rest assured that when they travel with us all they leave behind are their own footprints!  We work with a company called TerraPass that helps us offset the carbon footprint from each of our trips by investing in various earth-friendly projects and companies.  The amount we invest is calculated by the number of miles our busses and individual customers travel.

We are also dedicated to working with local small businesses in the geographical areas we visit. We aim to book accommodations at highly recommended local hotels or bed and breakfasts, and always supply travelers with a list of recommended local restaurants, retailers and entertainment venues to visit during their stay.

We also strive to make every trip Bucket List worthy.  While we are not the only company that offers Surprise Travel, we are the only one that custom creates journeys designed to ensure our customers don’t forget their Bucket Lists!  We strive to make sure our travelers are still sharing their epic experiences with their friends and family years after they travel with us.

WN: What are your plans for the grant funds?

LB: We have some lofty goals!  With a successful marketing campaign, we believe we can inspire a large audience of customers to live their lives fully and in the moment by restoring their sense of adventure through Surprise Travel and Mystery Tours.

Many of our colleagues believe Surprise Travel is the key to reaching the next generation of travelers. We want to be a major player in bridging the gap between millennials and baby boomers, and in boosting the travel industry as a whole.

Also, with some development and partnerships we plan on establishing a non-profit charity to fulfill the Bucket List items of terminally ill adults.

As a startup, reaching the public has been our greatest challenge by far.  Since gaining exposure is our biggest hurdle and as a startup we have limited funds, the qualifying grant we just received would be dedicated to marketing and promotions.  The money will help us get directly in front of potential customers at some larger travel shows as well as allow us to sponsor Surprise Travel trips for promotional events.  It will also help with printing expenses, video production and paid advertisements.

While the grant funds are a major benefit, the PR boost we receive from winning the grant is, in itself, super valuable!  Since exposure is what we need most, we are super excited and grateful to have been chosen for the qualifying grant and look forward to competing for the additional Amber Grant as well.

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

LB: Go For It, Girl! 

My business partner Holly and I came to the realization that while we were working hard for other organizations and corporations, we were spending our valuable time and resources working towards other people’s visions, not our own.  Never doubt your greatness and ability to realize your dreams!  Take one day, one task at a time and before you know it your ideas that seem huge and crazy may one day set you up to inspire and transform your whole industry.

January Amber Grant Awarded to Madison Eats Food Tours

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Last week, we revealed our January Grant finalists. After much deliberation, we’re thrilled to announce the recipient — Otehlia Cassidy, Founder of Madison Eats Food Tours.

Congratulations to Otehlia and each of the finalists. A special thanks to Otehlia for taking the time to respond to our interview questions…

Madison Eats

WN: What drove you to create Madison Eats Food Tours?

OC: I have always felt driven and inspired by connecting with people, especially people of diverse backgrounds. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to explore the world. I have been fortunate to travel all over the world, including places that many tourists don’t go and where I couldn’t speak the language – indigenous villages in the rainforest of Guyana, remote villages in Mali, West Africa or even towns in South America or Europe.

Even if you don’t speak the same language or have the same beliefs, you can share a meal. Eating and cooking are universal and offer a place for joy and conversation, appreciation and connection to each other. I wanted to build those relationships at home. I wanted to learn about the people in my community and to bring people together around food — who doesn’t love to eat?! Even here in Madison, where I have lived for 20 years, starting a food tour company has allowed me to develop meaningful connections within my community, and support our local economy — all while eating delicious food. It’s a great job!

WN: Some people might be unaware of all of the culinary offerings within Madison. Give us a sample of what one might experience in your city.

OC: Madison has been underrated as a food city for some time, but that is rapidly changing. We have a network of incredible chefs, including Tory Miller, who won the Iron Chef Showdown against Bobby Flay. Madison is also home to a diversity of food producers — we are home to the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country.

Chefs have immigrated here from all over the world, including a large number from Thailand and Laos. What this means is that our food scene is very diverse with quality ingredients and people who truly care about food.

We boast a top notch farm to table scene, and also family run restaurants such as Lao Lan Xang, a restaurant owned by Bounyang Inthachith, who immigrated here from Laos almost 30 years ago. She fled Laos with her 4 children after the Vietnam war. After arriving in snowy Wisconsin, speaking no English, she says that her youngest son cried for rice. She started cooking for him and soon was cooking for other people. Now her restaurant is one of the most popular in Madison. She in turn supports Hmong farmers, who fled the same war. On our food tours we visit these restaurants and learn about the stories of the chefs and owners, forging connections and exploring our community while enjoying a great meal!

WN: How have you marketed the business? What avenues have been most successful?

OC: I have been uncertain about the best marketing strategy. Honestly, that is my weakness. This year I am working with professionals to help work on SEO and developing ad campaigns on different platforms. I plan to put more effort and money into marketing this year as I plan to grow the company. Much of my marketing has been Facebook, Instagram, and my website, as well as word of mouth and Trip Advisor, where we are rated the #1 food tour in Madison! Other people vouching for your product is the best advertising.

WN: What are your goals for the year ahead, and how can the grant money help you reach them?

OC: As I mentioned, marketing has always been daunting to me. I plan to use the money to market more strategically. I will direct market to companies. I have already met with a web designer to make my site mobile friendly and to help develop ads for social media. I also want to grow what I offer and continue to directly support the diverse food producers in our community through developing new tours such as a farmers’ market tour, and tours that directly support minority populations, such as Black and Latino owned business, women and LGBT owned businesses.

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

OC: I have a few mantras that I rotate through my day. As women, we have to believe that we are worthy. You are worthy! It’s easier to be fearful and sit in our safe space that to risk failure or uncertainty, but take the risk, because all you have to lose is you. I firmly believe in a vision board/daily affirmations where the thoughts and wording are key. Rather than saying “I want” or “I will” say it as if it is happening already. “I own a successful food tour company and sell over 3000 tickets a year.” Your words are powerful. And so are you.

December Amber Grant Awarded to Imagiread

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Recently, we shared our December Grant finalists.

Today, we’re here to share the recipient of that Qualification Grant — Tiffany Rachann, Founder of Imagiread.

Continue on to read about how she’s impacting the lives of young students.

WN: What purpose does Imagiread serve and what drove you to start the business?

TR: Imagiread was born of out of my love for children’s literature and my passion for education. It started off as a bit of a hobby, happening shortly after I’d wrote and self-published my first children’s book entitled “It’s Water Time, Ma!”. The book is based on the real-life events of my family, where we esteem and revere water experiences in hopes to communicate how valuable the resource is. One day during a reading of the book at a friend’s Lemonade Day event, the director of a prominent educational organization approached me and asked if I would consider co-writing a S.T.E.M based literacy curriculum based on my book. I was excited to explore the opportunity as I’d previously written literacy curriculum for a youth advocacy and mentoring program. That one yes opened up the door to a world of imaginative possibilities.

Immediately after the program was implemented, I noted the reading struggles of many of the program participants. I reconsidered my goal of wanting to implore families to read together for fun and engagement and shifted my attention towards empowering families to strengthen their literacy fluency for fun and engagement. That meant taking a look at what literacy habits are for a variety of families and why. Which led me to conduct my own research.

I learned first hand through a number of experiments, community events, book giveaways and book readings what the challenges were and how they played a part in functional illiteracy as a whole. By in large, I started to analyze how literacy, and the access to quality programming, is a cultural challenge more than an “academic” one. I recognized the need for specialized programming that’s socially responsible, and both culturally authentic and appropriate thereby asserting relativity for all members involved.

I set out to develop my own proprietary program using what I’d learned and am happy to say that I’ve served approximately 725 children to date with Imagiread’s programming. That doesn’t include hundreds of children and families I’ve worked with through library and community partnerships. I’m encouraged to continue to support the community with custom programming and support. There is nothing like seeing a child make literacy connections as a result of interaction you’ve had with them. To have that impact extend to families and communities is invaluable.

WN: What type of response have you received from schools and parents?

TR: To date, I’m still shocked when I see a parent out and about who recognizes me from a program. I’ve had parents praise me for the work Imagiread does, citing how difficult it’d been getting their son/daughter to take an interest in reading before being incorporated. I’ve had dozens of parents inbox me sharing their child’s love for It’s Water Time, Ma! and taking the oath to be more hydrated while conserving water. I’ve had community organizations invite me to speak to their student body and have co-hosted a number of interactive author visits for child care centers and head start programs. Imagiread has been recognized for the programming by two of the local library systems and one of the largest schools districts here in Houston.

WN: What are your plans for the grant money?

TR: Imagiread is a one-woman show. To compensate for the opportunity to conduct thorough research by partnering with organizations and offering reduced-fee programming to schools that meet the criteria, I usually work two part-time jobs to support the company.

At the end of August, Hurricane Harvey devastated thousands of Houstonians leaving the city to rebuild what officials say will take years. Imagiread was effected and lost working equipment, books, inventory and teaching supplies. In addition to replacing some of what was lost, I’ll also be able to invest in a comprehensive digital marketing software tool that will automate the programs I’ve created so that they are available online with a complementary mobile app. Investing in such will not only streamline the research endeavors but also afford opportunities to sell more books and publish three new books that I’m working on. One is a how-to guide for parents; the second is a second practice workbook for kids (I currently have the first out already) and the third being a professional development resource for teachers and child care directors.

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

TR: Know Thyself girlfriend! Imagiread is my lifelong dream. I can’t think of a thing that makes me happier than reading with children. Understanding that has helped me to savor that feeling when things have gotten super rough, and I couldn’t afford basic necessities. I understood that through it all that I’d found my mission and my purpose but not without having to get to know who I am and what my expectations for being an entrepreneur, writer, educator and single mom were. Know that your skills are deserving of an opportunity to make a positive impact. Believe in your dreams with all of your heart; creating a life we are proud to live is what this whole thing is about. Find a support circle that shares the same values and learn to create fulfilling relationships with your network — it’ll benefit everyone involved.

Lastly, continue to seek. Life has a way of answering your prayers. Invest in your personal and professional growth while taking care of yourself so that you can progress with ease. Balance is the key. Oh and lastly-don’t be so hard on yourself. Perfection is what you believe it to be.

WN: If you have anything else to share, please do!

TR: Sure thing! I read an article just a few months ago about how many women feel as if they could accomplish more if they had professional mentors. I remember thinking how I, too, wish I had a female mentor to really connect to. Being chosen for the December 2018 qualifying grant is what I believe a win-win dream come true. Not one but a group of women championing for the success of women everywhere is indescribable. I’m so grateful to be a part. Thank you so much again!

***All the best to Tiffany as she continues her journey with Imagiread.  Remember that we award at least 1 grant each month.  If you’re interested in applying, get started today.