Inspired by Stacy Madison, who founded Stacy’s Pita Chips (now owned by PepsiCo), the initiative has awarded each of the five finalists a $20,000 grant plus the opportunity to participate in a three-month executive mentorship program.
The overall winner – to be announced in November – will receive an additional $100,000 grant.
The finalists are:
- Hannah Dehradunwala (New York City), founder of Transfernation, a technology-based, on-demand food rescue service, allowing food providers to request pickups for untouched extra food to be taken to local homeless shelters or food banks.
- Pilar Gonzalez (Mission, Texas), founder of Habibi Gourmet (Dip-It) preservative-free dips.
- Kate Holby (Upper Black Eddy, PA), founder of Ajiri Tea, which employs women in western Kenya to make the packaging for the tea and coffee boxes and donates 100% of its profits to the Ajiri Foundation to pay school fees for orphans.
- Hannah Hong (Los Angeles, CA), who co-founded Hakuna Brands,which is seeking to carve a novel niche in the frozen desserts aisle, with banana-based frozen desserts.
- Michele Liddle (Victor, NY), who started Perfect Granola on the foundation of giving back, hiring at-risk youth and sharing 5% of profits with homeless shelters, outreach centers and food banks.
"Each of the finalists have seamlessly blended innovation, business acumen and a commitment to philanthropy, and the results are highly-successful enterprises poised for even more greatness," said entrepreneur, actress and author Padma Lakshmi, who was part of the judging panel.
"By championing these five women, we are opening up the dialogue to the larger systemic issue surrounding the funding gap for female-founded businesses in hopes that we can help to create parity and a more inclusive environment for business owners."
The judging panel also included Frito-Lay and Stacy's brand executives; SckacNation CEO Sean Kelly; and Elizabeth Gore, president and chairwoman of Alice, the AI-based virtual advisor for female entrepreneurs.
Over the next three months, the five finalists will be paired with two dedicated Frito-Lay mentors and connected with subject matter experts in digital media, innovation and business strategy to advise them on their business plan before a formal presentation helps determine the $100,000 grand prize winner, to be announced November 19, Women's Entrepreneurship Day.