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InnovateHER Challenge Judges Announced

Monday, October 19, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ester Venouziou
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Join us for the Reception + Competition

Free admission 


OCT 19, 2015

ST PETERSBURG -- LocalShops1 is excited to announce the Judges Panel for the Dec. 2 Pinellas County regional round of the national InnovateHer Challenge, sponsored by the Small Business Administration.

On the judges panel:

  • Carla Bristol,  owner of Gallerie 909
  • Diana M. Hechavarria, entrepreneurship professor at University South Florida
  • Marie Tomassi, managing partner at Trenam Law
  • Rita Lowman, COO, C1 Bank
  • Robin King, co-owner of Three Birds Tavern & Out of the Weeds 

The event will be moderated by Barry Rubin, president of the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce & founder of Time Systems in St. Petersburg. Keynote speaker is Isabel Laessig, founder of Family Foodie.


The regional round, hosted by LocalShops1 and the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce, take place Dec. 2 at the Catherine Hickman Theatre in Gulfport. Admission is free. The event is sponsored by Three Birds Tavern, Out of the Weeds and Red Hot Tiki Spicy Gourmet Market. 

To apply to compete, to go

For free event registration go to

The InnovateHER Challenge is a national prize competition 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.

During the InnovateHER Finals March 16 and 17 in Washington, DC, finalists will compete for prizes totaling $70,000 provided by Microsoft.


Challenge Criteria 

The InnovateHER Challenge provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to showcase products and services that:

  • Have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families (30%)
  • Have the potential for commercialization (40%)
  • Fill a need in the marketplace (30%)

Participants must be at least 18 years of age, U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and meet other eligibility requirements as defined in the challenge rules.


How it Works

Initial Round - Local Competition
During the initial local round of InnovateHER, LocalShops1 will run a competition to identify the most innovative and entrepreneurial business ideas that empower and impact the lives of women and families in the Tampa Bay region.  

The local competition will take place 5-8 pm Dec 2, 2015, at the Catherine Hickman Theatre in Gulfport. Participating businesses will be asked to do a 3-minute pitch before a live audience and a panel of judges. Contestants should also be prepared for a fast-pitch questioning round by the judges.

To apply to compete in the LocalShops1 Local Round, please fill out this form online and email a PDF of your business plan to LocalShops1 founder Ester Venouziou at no later than Nov. 1, 2015. 


Semi-Finalist Round
Following the local business competition, LocalShops1 and other hosting organizations throughout the country will each select one winning entry and submit the nomination, along with the winner's business plan, to the Small Business Administration. The SBA will then narrow down the semi-finalists to up to 10 national finalists, who will be invited to go to the finals in the Washington, DC metro area. Contestants cannot submit entries directly to SBA.

Final National Pitch Competition
The finalists will be invited to go to the Washington, D.C. metro area for the 2016 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge and Summit (March 16-17, 2015), where they’ll be provided the opportunity to conduct a live marketing pitch to a team of expert judges drawn from the private sector. They will compete for up to $70,000 in prize money (first prize, $40,000; second prize, $20,000; third prize, $10,000. The national finalists are responsible for covering their own travel costs for the national competition.



Important Links 

Get Inspired: Meet the 2015 national winners

DEADLINE Nov 1: Enter the Local Round! No fee to enter

Come watch the competition. Free admission

Meet the judges


Interested in being a sponsor of the Local Round? 
Email Ester Venouziou at to discuss options.