SBA Launches Women’s Small Business Competition
By Maui Now Staff
The U.S. Small Business Administration is launching a business competition called “InnovateHER” to level the playing field for women in the workforce by giving them more options to foster and develop products and services.
Nearly half of the US labor force is now made up of women, according to the US Department of Labor. Of that half, 74 percent of women work full time and 70 percent of those women have children younger than 18, making the balancing of work and home needs increasingly challenging.
“InnovateHER explores some relatively new territory for SBA,” said Jane Sawyer, district director for the Hawaiʻi District Office. “Open to all entrepreneurs of all genders over the age of 18, we’re hunting for products or services that solve a problem or simplify tasks for women and families with tools and technologies for home management, childcare and healthy living, to name just a few examples. It’s a big niche!”
The SBA is seeking out individuals or firms developing a product or service that meets three specific criteria for the program: 1. creates a measurable impact on the lives of women and families (30%); 2. is commercially viable (40%); 3. fulfills a need or demand in the marketplace (30%).
“We are already fielding inquiries from interested Hawaiʻi entrepreneurs,” Sawyer said. “We plan to work with resource centers, accelerators, incubators and the universities to identify candidates and select top ideas and plans to submit to the national contest to compete for cash prizes.”
The InnovateHER competition’s first round kicks off Mar. 1, 2015, through local organizations that have been approved by the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership in Washington, DC. In Hawaiʻi, The Mink Center for Business and Leadership, the SBA’s women business center at the YWCA Laniakea, has been approved to host the competition.
Each approved organization will select and submit a winner to the SBA who will then choose 10 finalists. The final contestants will be invited to Washington, DC, to pitch their idea to a panel of judges during National Small Business Week, May 4–8, 2015, competing for three top awards and prize money totaling $30,000.
Additional organizations may apply to serve as hosts through Feb. 27 at www.sba.gov. Local winners will be selected by April 1.