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It’s officially the year for celebrity-led corporate incubators for female entrepreneurs. In January, Rebecca Minkoff and the Female Founder Collective partnered with Visa to launch empowerment initiative She’s Next; in March, Serena Williams was announced as an investor in Bumble’s venture fund and a key player in the fund’s new pitch competition; and on Thursday, Padma Lakshmi joined Stacy’s Pita Chips in announcing “Stacy’s Rise Project,” a $200,000 pitch contest for female founders in the food space.
Lakshmi is serving as one of the judges (and famous mentors) for the project, which Stacy’s is launching alongside Alice, the online help site for female entrepreneurs. The contest, which is open from Thursday until June 21, is open to any female-founded food or drink company with at least $25,000 in annual revenue.
“What I’m really wanting to focus on and get other women in my position focused on is mentorship. I didn’t have that and I know a lot of women like me did not have that mentorship and counsel and support and funding,” Lakshmi told Forbes in a phone interview. “I think if we ever want to have parity in a male-dominated world, we need to create that parity by supporting young women.”
How that support will specifically manifest through the Stacy’s project is this: five finalists will receive $20,000 each, along with a face-to-face mentoring session with Stacy’s founder Stacy Madison, office hours with “industry experts” and executives from PepsiCo, Stacy’s corporate parent. Of the five finalists, one winner will be chosen in November to receive a $100,000 investment for her business.
The Top Chef and 30 Under 30 judge said that when it comes to assessing the Stacy’s competition, she won’t be looking for entrepreneurs with a certain profile or even product. What’s essential, she says, is for the founders to have a long-term plan for their business.
“I need somebody who has a vision for their company and really think 20 years down the line, 30 years down the line— even if that means saying, ‘I hope to be bought out in a decade,'” she said.
And while she won’t favor one sub-sector of the culinary industry over another, either, Lakshmi did reveal what she thinks is missing among the food startup ecosystem.
“I would like a female entprerneur to crack the code of offering the American public a product that is healthy for their family to eat on a regular basis that doesn’t have a lot of plastic packaging, and is priced approachably enough that they could buy it regularly, like a carton of peas or milk.”
Lakshmi won’t be alone in going through the pitches that come in to Stacy’s; the other judges for the competition are Elizabeth Gore, president and chairwoman of Alice, Shawn Kelly, co-founder and CEO of SnackNation and Lisa Wang, CEO and co-founder of SheWorx.
“A lot of women are realizing it’s not enough to say what’s wrong, you have to be a part of the active solution. You have to give your time, your money,” Lakshmi said, in reference to the other judges as well as the other celebrity-led entrepreneurial help initiatives that have popped up for women this year. “It involves participation on our parts to help people we’re not connected to. You have to help people who you don’t know and will never see a benefit from.”
May 9, 2019 at 07:34AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs