Grand Rapids Opportunities for Woman (GROW), the Small Business Development Center and the Small Business Administration have teamed up to bring the second annual 2016 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge to West Michigan.
Female entrepreneurs play an integral role in growing the presence of women in the workforce. That said, the number of female venture capital partners dropped to 6 percent in 2014, down from 10 percent in 1999. This drop is in direct correlation to the amount of capital accessible to these women—only 7 percent of the venture capital funding in the U.S. goes to women. The InnovateHER Challenge hopes to change this situation for the better!
InnovateHER is a nationwide prize competition that seeks innovative products and services that could affect and empower women. The products are judged against the following criteria: Their measurable impact on the lives of women and families, their potential for commercialization, and the need for the item in the marketplace. The top three Challenge winners will share $70,000 in prize money, provided by Microsoft.
Aspiring West Michigan entrepreneurs submitted their ideas to GROW's Grand Rapids office. The entries were vetted through an independent group and four top products were selected.
On November 30, 2015, Deborah Tacoma, owner of Freedom Creators, Inc., was chosen as the West Michigan-area winner for her personal hygiene medical device. GROW will continue to work with Tacoma and the other talented West Michigan entrants.
The top 10 national winners have now been announced and the overall Challenge winner will be selected March 17, 2016 at the Innovating for Women in Business Summit in Washington, D.C.
"This is the first year GROW has participated in the InnovateHER Challenge and we look forward to our future involvement," said Bonnie Nawara, GROW CEO. The InnovateHER Challenge is a positive step toward gender equality in the workforce.
Click here for more detailed information on this Challenge.
Written by Lisa Stickler, staff writer for West Michigan Woman magazine.