National business challenge open to local women



Bethune-Cookman University has been selected as one of several host sites for the semifinal rounds of a women’s business challenge competition titled “The Innovate HER Challenge.” The national competition allows individuals and small businesses to compete at the national level for cash prizes totaling over $70,000.  The Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Owner and sponsor Microsoft piloted and launched the inaugural InnovateHER challenge in 2015 to provide a platform and funding for women to produce their savvy ideas.

Under the auspices of B-CU’s College of Business and Entrepreneurship and the Center for the Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED), the 2016 competition marks the second year the university will participate.

Women and workforce  
Women currently comprise nearly half of the labor force, which is significantly different than 50 years ago. Additionally, women play a critical role in our nation’s economic prosperity.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 74 percent of employed women work full time and 70 percent have children under 18 years of age. Most children live in households where all parents work and as demands on women and families increase, so does the need for innovative products and services.

Oct. 24 deadline
The InnovateHER Challenge is aimed at unearthing products and services that impact and empower the lives of women and families through local business competitions that culminate in a live pitch Final Round.

Local individuals and groups (maximum of three) are invited to submit a maximum, 20-page business plan along with an entry form by Oct. 24.

Participants must address the issue of empowering the lives of women and families.

A panel of judges will select the top entrants to participate in the local pitch competition as semifinalists. Among those chosen, the top tier will then be invited to make their pitch to a panel of university and community judges on Nov. 6.

One finalist will be selected to compete during the national InnovateHER finals, which will be held March 16 and 17 in the Washington, D.C. area as part of a larger women’s summit.

2015 winners
Bethany Edwards of Philadelphia won first place  in 2015. Her team at LIA Diagnostics (link is external) designed a pregnancy test to provide a better experience for women at a stressful moment in their lives. The LIA test is discreet, easy to use and is environmentally friendly.

The second-place award was given to Lisa Crites of Cocoa Beach, who owns The Shower Shirt. (link is external) Crites designed a post-surgical, patented, water-resistant garment designed to prevent post-surgical mastectomy drain sites from coming into contact with water while showering.
Sophia Berman of Pittsburgh is a designer at Trusst Lingerie (link is external), who developed products aimed at eliminating the pain and discomforts experienced by the underserved U.S. market of larger busted woman.

Challenge contacts
Local challenge: Contact the B-CU CEED Team Business Development Coordinator, Marc Vanja Misanovic,, at 386-481-2871 or the CEED Team Director, Casandra R. Stroy,, 386-481-2940.

National challenge: For rules and eligibility, go to the SBA website of InnovateHER:


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