True Wealth Ventures MBA fellow Ashley Hemphill judges the InnovateHER 2017 challenge in Austin, Texas.
Women are in the workforce now more than ever, a number that is close to surpassing that of men. Gender equality is not simply about getting a woman a spot at the metaphorical table. Women have made great strides in education, the workforce, and their role in the economy, but there are still not enough women in leadership positions.
SBA recognizes that over the past two decades, women entrepreneurs have been critical to growing businesses and creating jobs, whether it’s in in cutting-edge fields like precision medicine or cybersecurity or through advances in agriculture or manufacturing. Consider this: the number of women venture capital partners has dropped to 6 percent in 2014, down from 10 percent in 1999. This directly correlated with women’s access to capital; only about 7 percent of venture capital funding in the United States goes to women. A Harvard Business School study asked potential investors to rate a series of pitches, some of which were narrated by women and some by men. Even when the scripts were exactly the same, only 32 percent of people said they’d fund the woman, compared to 68 percent who said they would fund the man.
The InnovateHER Challenge
The InnovateHER Challenge celebrated its inaugural year in 2015. The InnovateHER Challenge2016 included a local pitch competition component. From August 2015 through December 2015, universities, accelerators, SBA Resource Partners, Microsoft stores and other organizations hosted local competitions. Each host submitted one local winner to the SBA, who then identified 10 Finalists. These finalists were invited to travel to the Washington D.C. metro area on March 17, 2016 for a live pitch competition and compete for up to $70,000 in prize money.
InnovateHER provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. to showcase products and services that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families (30%), have the potential for commercialization (40%), and fill a need in the marketplace (30%).
Over the course of the 2016 InnovateHER Challenge, over 248 organizations registered to host local competitions. Businesses in 49 of 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and American Samoa were represented. There were 194 local competitions held in which winning business plans were submitted to SBA for evaluation. Over the course of four months, over 3,000 entrepreneurs were engaged in local competitions.
The six 2015 and 2016 InnovateHER Challenge winners displayed amazing talent and potential for commercialization:
2015 InnovateHER Challenge Winners
- First place ($15,000) was awarded to Bethany Edwards of LIA Diagnostics, who designed an eco-friendly, discreet pregnancy test that is easy to use and understand. Edwards and her team are based in Philadelphia, PA.
- Second place ($10,000) was awarded to Lisa Crites, creator of The Shower Shirt. The Shower Shirt is a post-surgical, water-resistant garment designed to prevent post-surgical mastectomy and other chest surgery drain sites from coming into contact with water while showering. Crites is based in Cocoa Beach, FL.
- Third place ($5,000) was awarded to Sophia Berman of Trusst Lingerie, who developed effective and attractive products aimed at eliminating the pain and discomforts experienced by the underserved U.S. market of larger busted women. Berman is based in Pittsburgh, PA.
2016 InnovateHER Challenge Winners
- First place ($40,000) was awarded to Elizabeth Caven, creator of UpCraft Club. UpCraft Club is a website for digital sewing patterns. Caven is based in Des Moines, Iowa.
- Second place ($20,000) was awarded to Dawn Dickson, who has created Flat Out of Heels – durable roll-out ballet flat-type shoes that provide an option for heel-wearing ladies on the go. Dickson is based in Miami Beach, FL.
- Third place ($10,000) went to Dr. Agnes Scoville for her product Pacidose, a device which makes it easier to give medicine to infants and young children. Dr. Scoville is located in St. Louis, MO.