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Natural Products Expo
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10 female entrepreneurs chosen to participate in WomanMade Expo West Challenge

Editor's note: Because of concerns about the coronavirus situation, Natural Products Expo West has been postponed and all corresponding events are canceled.

Today Frito-Lay has unveiled the 10 finalists in its inaugural WomanMade Expo West Challenge, in which female entrepreneurs will pitch their business plans in a live, rapid-fire format to industry experts for a chance to win from $100,000 in business grants.

The WomanMade Expo West Challenge, a PepsiCo initiative dedicated to advancing female-founded businesses in the food and beverage industry, will take place at Natural Products Expo West on Friday, March 6 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. Pacific Time in the Marriot Convention Center, Marquis Northwest.

The challenge is open to any credentialed attendees of Expo West who would like to learn more about the 10 finalists, all female founders whose businesses have $500,000 in annual revenue and rose to the top with their commitment to innovation and social impact.

The 10 finalists of the inaugural WomanMade Expo West Challenge are:

  • Sashee Chandran: founder of Tea Drops, organic shaped teas that dissolve instantly in hot water and generate 20% less waste than traditional tea packaging.
  • Nydia Shipman: co-founder of The Worthy Company, the first plant-based, all-in-one snack bowl made for on-the-go.
  • Kate Flynn: co-founder of Sun & Swell Foods with a mission of making healthy, on-the-go snacking more accessible.
  • Jessica Levison: founder of Peekaboo Ice Cream, a certified B Corporation designed to deliver indulgent ice cream with hidden veggies that can’t be seen or tasted.
  • Cecilia Panichelli: co-founder of Cocina 54, heritage-inspired empanadas made from scratch with fresh vegetables and antibiotic-free meats.
  • Brooke Rewa: founder of GoodMylk, the first company to scale homemade-quality plant-based milks without the use of binders, gums, fillers or preservatives.
  • Rana Lustyan: founder of Edoughble, small-batch, 100% safe to eat cookie dough with premium ingredients.
  • Allison DeVane: founder of Teaspressa, an all-natural organic tea designed to replace espresso with the health benefits of tea and the same caffeine content as coffee.
  • Katie Jesionowski: co-founder of My SuperFoods, nutrient-dense snacks using superfoods that are traditionally not found in kids snacks, while being mindful of growing allergy concerns.
  • Jill Robbins: founder of Homefree, a certified B Corporation that makes allergy-friendly treats with a strong commitment to environmental and social responsibility. 

“We were blown away by the 100+ submissions we received for our inaugural WomanMade challenge, and while it was difficult to narrow down the outstanding work being done by women in the food and beverage industry, the 10 women we’ve selected as finalists are so deserving of the recognition,” said Ciara Dilley, vice president of transform brands and portfolio innovation at Frito-Lay.

“Dedicated to championing diversity and inclusion, our entire WomanMade team is proud to do our part in providing much-needed support to female founders as they scale their businesses. We’re honored to highlight these women as they continue to be a driving force in our industry.”

Each of the finalists will have five minutes to present their business plans, immediately followed by up to five minutes for a Q and A session with the judging panel comprised of PepsiCo executives and fellow entrepreneurs, including:

  • Jen Saenz, president, PepsiCo Global Foods
  • Ciara Dilley, vice president of marketing, Frito-Lay Transform Brands & Portfolio Innovation
  • Lisa Lillien, best-selling author and founder of Hungry-Girl.com
  • Shane Emmett, Health Warrior co-founder
  • Hannah Hong, Hakuna Brands co-founder and winner of the 2019 Stacy’s Rise Project

The top three winners of the WomanMade Expo West Challenge will be announced live on-site and will receive $50,000, $30,000 and $20,000 grants, respectively. Additionally, in partnership with Alice, a free multi-channel platform that helps New Majority Entrepreneurs, all applicants will receive support for their business through the WomanMade Community on Alice, as well as tickets to Alice’s Business for All conferences in 2020.

The number of women-owned businesses grew 58% between 2007 and 2018, and by 46% in terms of revenue, according to research from American Express. A study conducted by Mass Challenge and BCG also found that businesses founded by women deliver higher revenue–more than two times as much per dollar invested–than those founded by men.

However, according to PitchBook Data Inc., of all venture capitalist funding invested in 2018, only 2.2% was given to female-founded companies and only 0.2% went to diverse female entrepreneurs. Additionally, research shows that female entrepreneurs often have less access than male counterparts to the tools and resources they need to launch and sustain successful businesses.

Source: PepsiCo

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