The woman behind a solar-paneled electric charging station built to overcome challenges found in developing nations earned the spotlight herself as Thursday’s big winner in the inaugural HI-HERImpact Kansas City pitch competition.
Conner Hazelrigg, founder of 1773 Innovation Co. — the maker of the Sunshine Box — was awarded the contest’s $25,000 prize in the later-stage business category. The Sunshine Box helps bridge the energy gap for people across the globe by providing stable electricity through solar power. It has been shipped to 18 countries.
Click here to learn more about Sunshine Box and 1773 Innovation Co., a 2017 Digital Sandbox KC recipient.
Powered by the Ford Motor Company Fund and 1863 Ventures, the pitch competition was open to women-run social impact ventures in the Kansas City metro with six finalists pitching Thursday for $50,000 in grants.
“We are so excited to support Conner. She is the perfect example of a social entrepreneur — focused, humble, and committed,” said Melissa Bradley, founder and managing partner at 1863 Ventures. “Sunshine Box is the perfect product that is literally bringing light and hope to emerging communities.”
During the live “Shark Tank”-style virtual event, the competitors showcased their businesses to a panel of judges that included Ford Fund and 1863 Ventures representatives. Winners were determined based on three criteria; the operation must solve a community problem, have a business model that will be sustainable, and feature a product or service differentiated with a clear value proposition.
Grants were awarded in two categories, based on the status of the business. The four winning companies were:
- 17 73 Innovation Co., Conner Hazelrigg — $25,000 prize winner (later-stage business)
- Kufukaa, Anita Koul — $10,000 prize winner (later-stage business)
- Bertelsen Education, Jill Bertelsen — $5,000 prize winner (early-stage business)
- Safely Delicious, Lisa Ragan — $5,000 prize winner (early-stage business)
An additional $5,000 prize was awarded in an “Audience Choice” category. Bertelsen Education and Kufukaa tied in the audience choice vote and each received an additional $2,500 prize.
Click here to read more about the six woman-led ventures that competed in Thursday’s event.
Watch the full pitch competition in the video below or keep reading.
“Over the past several years Ford Fund has increased programs and initiatives that support social entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities. Investments in these high-potential social enterprises are important for individual success and provide outsized returns for the communities they serve,” said Yisel Cabrera, manager, Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford. “We’re proud to support women who are leading the way in creating businesses that strengthen their communities and help make people’s lives better.”
The pitch competition followed a two-day virtual entrepreneurship summit in late June that featured interactive keynote presentations, panel discussions and workshops as part of the HI-HERImpact program, which provides educational opportunities, technical assistance, mentoring, coaching and financial resources to enterprises run by women.
“Now more than ever it is an essential time to support women entrepreneurs,” Bradley said. “Over the last 20 years, the number of women entrepreneurs has increased year over year, yet we still see high inequity in our ability to access capital. With our economy now in a shecession, organizations must do more to put resources and capital behind women entrepreneurs.”
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.