Finalists in this week’s debut HI-HERImpact pitch competition say the virtual event offers Kansas City’s female social entrepreneurs an opportunity to tell their stories — and potentially score pivotal funding.
“Winning it would be life changing for me, my business and the team of people working for Safely Delicious in so many ways,” said Lisa Ragan, a competition finalist and founder of Safely Delicious, an Overland Park-based allergy-friendly snack line that has seen sales take off since the 2021 launch of its newest product, KC Style, but now encounters insufficient production space.
Winners of Thursday’s HI-HERImpact competition are expected to split $50,000 in prize money; divvied up between two $5,000 awards for early stage businesses, one $10,000 and one $25,000 prize for later-stage businesses, and one $5,000 audience choice winner.
Click here to register to watch the HI-HERImpact pitch competition.
“We need to scale up our business, move into a larger commercial facility and hire more people,” Ragan told Startland News. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the funds to take my business to the next level, which it absolutely needs at this time, or the business might not make it.”
Click here to read more about how women-owned businesses bore the brunt of the pandemic’s economic impact.
In addition to Safely Delicious, the HI-HERImpact pitch competition boasts a diverse array of women-owned social impact ventures from across the Kansas City metro. The full list of finalists — announced Friday by organizers of the event — includes:
- Bertelsen Education, Jill Bertelsen — Supporting families and childcare providers through continuing education.
- KClayton Studio, Kelsea Clayton — A brick-and-mortar Overland Park craft space for classes, open studio sessions, and birthday parties and group events.
- Kufukaa, Anita Koul — An e-commerce-based, social-sustainable clothing and homeware brand.
- Safely Delicious, Lisa Ragan — An allergy friendly line of sweet and savory snacks.
- Sunshine Box, Conner Hazelrigg — A solar paneled charging station that empowers mobile first emerging nations to stay connected by providing electricity to charge phones.
- YES! Athletics, Deb North — Maker of the first wrestling shoe for women; offering shoes male athletes have traditionally worn in styles and colors appealing to female athletes.
“We will be able to showcase our business on a national platform and spread the word about the work we have been doing the past year,” said Anita Koul, founder of Kufukaa, expressing gratitude for her selection as a finalist. “If we get awarded with the title, we would be investing the funds for developing our SEO, marketing and sales department from the ground up.”
Kufukaa began as a platform for sustainable, and handcrafted artifacts, but pivoted its business during the pandemic to accommodate a community-first approach. Launched in 2019, Kufukaa is an eco-conscious apparel brand that offers a marketplace for sustainable clothing made by, for, and in America, Koul said.
Click here to read more about Kufukaa’s 2020 pivot.
“We have a greater goal to retain craftsmanship jobs in America and empower refugee immigrant artists to help [the economies of their home countries],” Koul said. “From helping refugee immigrants to spark their passion while providing them with a steady income to supporting the local community by responsibly sourcing native materials, eliminating waste, carbon emissions, we are proud to be crafting exclusively handmade sustainable products in Kansas City.”
Today, Kufukaa specializes in sustainable kitchenware with clients ranging from Swoon Cookies, Fox & Pearl, and Grunauer to Fannie’s, Sauce Queen and Patron Pollo and Beef. The company’s aprons and other products at Pantry Goods, Caffetteria and Function Junction, Koul said.
Deb North, founder of YES! Athletics, comes into Thursday’s contest fresh off a July 15 win at Velocity Lee’s Summit’s Pitch Pub Crawl where her startup — the maker of a lightweight, eco-friendly shoe for female wrestlers — took home $1,000 alongside Splitsy and Resiliency at Work.
Follow-up success at HI-HERImpact would allow YES! Athletics to hire a full-time virtual assistant, as well as a salesperson — expanding North’s ability to sell directly into high schools and colleges, as well as to attend more in-person wrestling events to sell shoes on-site, she said.
Click here to learn more about North’s defiant social enterprise, which along with Sunshine Box and Safely Delicious previously participated in the Pitch Perfect bootcamp at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County.
Growth for Ragan’s Safely Delicious hinges on much-needed capital, she emphasized, noting her sweet snack products are already sold in nearly 200 locations — many of them Balls Food Stores and Cosentino’s Food Stores in the Kansas City area and surrounding towns in Kansas and Missouri, and Hy-Vee Health Markets locally and throughout the Midwest.
Playing off the successful launch the KC Style flavor — a blend intended to pay tribute to the brand’s roots and Kansas City spirit — its new line of savory Safely Delicious snacks is expected to be released once Ragan moves into a larger commercial facility, she said.
“Should we win, it will definitely validate all of my hard work, very long days, sleepless nights, constant grinding and literally living and breathing Safely Delicious, to help make my business and products eventually a national household name,” Ragan said.
Click here to read about the launch of the HI-HERImpact pitch competition.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.