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Women Social Entrepreneurs Make Their Pitch, Score Business Grants from Ford Fund and 1863 Ventures

  • Ford Motor Company Fund and 1863 Ventures awarded $50,000 in grants to the winners of a pitch competition focused on social enterprises run by women

  • Six finalists participated in the virtual pitch competition; Each of the participating women operate socially conscious businesses that are sustainable, make money and help solve problems in their communities

  • HI-HERImpact combines financial aid with mentorship, workshops, and other vital support to help women-owned small businesses grow and increase positive community impact

KANSAS CITY, Mo., July 30, 2021— Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford, and 1863 Ventures have awarded a total of $50,000 in business grants to four local social enterprises owned by women entrepreneurs. Winners of the HI-HERImpact Kansas City pitch competition will share the cash prizes and in-kind support to help grow their businesses.

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 enterprises are:

Later-Stage Business Category Winners
$25,000 prize winner – 1773 Innovation Co., Founder: Conner Hazelrigg
1773 Innovation Co. – founded to help bridge the energy gap for people around the world – created a product called the Sunshine Box that provides stable electricity through solar energy. It has been shipped to 18 countries.

$10,000 prize winner – Kufukaa, Founder: Anita Koul 
Kufukaa is a sustainable and eco-friendly clothing brand supporting and empowering refugee immigrant artists and the local community by sourcing locally, responsibly eliminating waste and emissions, and selling only handmade sustainable products.

Early-Stage Business Category Winners 
$5,000 prize winner – Bertelsen Education, Founder: Jill Bertelsen
Bertelsen Education supports families and childcare providers through online professional development and continuing education for childcare license renewal.

$5,000 prize winner – Safely Delicious, Founder: Lisa Ragan
Safely Delicious manufactures, packages and sells one-of-a-kind allergy friendly food products. They are vegan, and free of the top 11 food allergens, including gluten, dairy, peanut, tree nuts, egg, soy and shellfish. 

Zoom screen showing nine females, one male; finalist or judge or program partner, participating in the HI-HERImpact Kansas City virtual pitch competition

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.

"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. "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.

While women-owned enterprises have made considerable progress in recent years, women entrepreneurs received just 2.3% of venture capital in the U.S. in 2020 and data indicates they receive fewer loans, for lower amounts, with higher interest rates. Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that businesses owned by women have been disproportionately hurt by COVID-19. A recent chamber survey found women who ranked the health of their business as “somewhat or very good” fell 13 points during the pandemic, while the number of men saw a drop of 5 points.

"Now more than ever it is an essential time to support women entrepreneurs. 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. 1863 Ventures is proud to partner with Ford Motor Company Fund to ensure women social entrepreneurs in Kansas City are supported and have additional access to resource streams," said Melissa Bradley, managing partner, 1863 Ventures.

Founded by Ford Motor Company Fund and 1863 Ventures, the mission of HI-HERImpact is to help women entrepreneurs create small businesses that improve their communities. Since 2017, Ford Fund has invested more than $350,000 in women-led socially conscious enterprises and provided business development resources to more than 500 entrepreneurs in Detroit, Washington, D.C., Miami and now Kansas City.


About Ford Motor Company Fund

As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, Ford Fund's mission is to strengthen communities and help make people's lives better. Working with dealers and nonprofit partners in more than 50 countries, Ford Fund provides access to opportunities and resources that help people reach their full potential. Since 1949, Ford Fund has invested more than $2.1 billion in programs that support education, promote safe driving, enrich community life and encourage employee volunteering. For more information, visit or join us at @FordFund on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About 1863 Ventures

1863 Ventures accelerates new majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth by bridging entrepreneurship and racial equity. Our vision is to create $100B of new wealth and economic power for and by the new majority. Our work provides emerging entrepreneurs with access to money, markets and management training. We will achieve our vision through increased profitability, job creation and access to capital for our members.