A growing national competition hosted locally by UNC Charlotte and Ventureprise is giving small businesses a shot at national recognition and funding. The InnovateHER 2016 Challenge targets businesses with new products and services that benefit working women and their families. Winning entries will split $70,000 in cash prizes.
The InnovateHER Challenge seeks entrepreneurs offering products and services that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families. Winning proposals must also fill a need in the marketplace and have the potential for commercialization.
Judges of the Charlotte regional competition will gather at the PORTAL Building on Nov. 17 to pick the regional winner. Our regional winner will complete a business plan for consideration in the national competition to be held during Women’s History Month on March 17, 2016 in Washington, D.C. The national competition, organized by the federal Small Business Association in partnership with Microsoft, will award three cash prizes totaling $70,000.
The winning ideas of the 2015 challenge included:
- A discreet, easy to use and read pregnancy test that is flushable, designed for women to hold and use, and environmentally friendly.
- The Shower Shirt, a water-resistant garment that allows women recovering from mastectomies to safely shower.
- A bra for larger-busted women that provides support without relying primarily on shoulder straps.
A new competition for Ventureprise
Submissions to the Charlotte regional competition are due today, Nov. 3. Judging will take place on Nov. 17 at UNC Charlotte’s Ventureprise offices in the PORTAL building.
A diverse group of men and women will judge the entries, including people from University City, large and small businesses, social media and business startups.
This is the first year that UNC Charlotte and Ventureprise have hosted a regional InnovateHER competition.
Devin Collins, assistant director for Business and Entrepreneurial Development at the university’s Charlotte Research Institute, said that UNC Charlotte and Ventureprise see the InnovateHER Challenge as a unique way to promote small businesses that focus on women and family issues.
“We typically see IT startups, but there are entrepreneurs in many aspects of business,” he said. “This is an opportunity to get different people in the room.”
Role of Ventureprise
Collins said that a just released study of Charlotte and comparable cities nationwide looked at their success at attracting venture capital and nurturing start-ups. “The outcome of the study is that Charlotte is not doing all that great in comparison to other cities, so anything we can do to promote entrepreneurs and start-ups, the better.”
Ventureprise is working to narrow that gap. The regional public-private non-profit supports the commercial success of early-stage, innovation driven entrepreneurs. Through ready-for-business office space in the university’s Charlotte Research Institute campus, along with comprehensive programs, Ventureprise offers a place for inventors, researchers and innovators to come together for business success.
Competitions and more
Ventureprise also offers programs for innovation-driven businesses throughout the region, including competitions like InnovateHER that can showcase strong new ideas and attract venture capital to bring them to market.
The biggest is the Charlotte Venture Challenge, held each spring. Thirty early-stage innovation based companies vied for $50,000 in cash prizes at the 2015 Challenge, which for the first time was part of the Southeast Venture Conference.
The Social Enterprise Competition, now under way, focuses on UNC Charlotte students interested in solving community social problems. Teams develop business plans to address a social problem facing Charlotte, the Charlotte region or all of North Carolina. Local winners will be chosen on Dec. 1. The winners will compete for cash prizes and recognition at the the 2016 University of North Carolina Social Entrepreneurship Conference.