Thanks to the power of webcams and Wi-Fi, Frito-Lay's inaugural WomanMade Challenge pivoted to host its finalist pitch-slam online after Natural Products Expo West was postponed indefinitely, awarding $100,000 in business grants to three female entrepreneurs on Friday as planned. Originally intended to be a live, rapid-fire event, WomanMade leveraged the power of technology to carry on virtually via Zoom, committed to advancing and providing much-needed support to female-founded food and beverage businesses.
Ten finalists, chosen from more than 100 applicants, presented to the panel of five judges comprised of PepsiCo executives, fellow entrepreneurs and other industry experts, including Lisa Lillien, founder of Hungry-Girl.com, before three were named winners:
• First Place: Sashee Chandran; founder of Tea Drops, organic shaped teas that dissolve instantly in hot water and generate 20% less waste than traditional tea packaging.
• Second Place: Nydia Shipman; co-founder of The Worthy Company, the first plant-based, all-in-one snack bowl made for on-the-go.
• Third Place: Kate Flynn; co-founder of Sun & Swell Foods, on a mission to make healthy, on-the-go snacking more accessible.
The winning female entrepreneurs will receive $50,000, $30,000 and $20,000 grants, respectively, that can be used in any aspect of their businesses. Joining Lillien on the judging panel were Jennifer Saenz, president of PepsiCo Global Foods; Ciara Dilley, vice president of marketing, transform brands & portfolio innovation Frito-Lay North America; Shane Emmett, co-founder of Health Warrior; and Hannah Hong, co-founder of Hakuna Brands and winner of the 2019 Stacy's Rise Project.
The 10 finalists of the inaugural WomanMade Expo West Challenge – including Jessica Levison of Peekaboo Ice Cream, Cecilia Panichelli of Cocina 54, Brooke Rewa of Goodmylk, Rana Lustyan of Edoughble, Allison DeVane of Teaspressa, Katie Jesionowski of My SuperFoods, and Jill Robbins of Homefree – represented a diverse group of business owners:
• Half of the finalist companies are founded by women of color.
• Four of the 10 finalists are Certified B Corporations.
• Half of the companies are founded by moms.
• Four of the organizations are committed to increasing access to better-for-you snacks.
• Four of the businesses are partnered with charitable organizations or donate proceeds of sales to charitable causes.
• Three of the companies have gluten-free products.
• Half of the finalists' products are organic.
• Three of the companies are non-GMO or Non-GMO Project Verified.
• Four of the contestants have created vegan food or beverages.
According to PitchBook, in 2019 female entrepreneurs again received a meager percentage of all venture capitalist funding, specifically 2.8%, up from 2.2% the year before. Research conversely shows that women-owned businesses have an average ROI of two times per dollar invested and that companies with diverse management teams deliver higher on innovation while also having lower employee turnover.
In addition to awarding a total of $100,000 in business grants to three female entrepreneurs, in partnership with Hello Alice, a free multi-channel platform that helps New Majority Entrepreneurs, all applicants will receive support for their business through the WomanMade Community on Hello Alice, as well as tickets to Hello Alice's Business for All conferences in 2020.
For more information about the WomanMade Challenge, please visit www.helloalice.com/communities/womanmade-by-pepsico.