ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Female entrepreneurs have significantly less access to capital, expertise and other resources required to launch and sustain successful businesses. WomanMade, a new initiative by PepsiCo, Inc., was created to advance female-founded businesses in the food and beverage industry.
“The support for female founders in general, beyond even the food and beverage industry, is pretty pathetic,” said Ciara Dilley, vice-president of transform brands and portfolio innovation at PepsiCo.
Just 3% of all venture funding supports female-founded businesses, and “we hypothesized for women in the food and beverage space it’s not an awful lot better,” she said.
PepsiCo and its subsidiary Frito-Lay North America are launching the inaugural WomanMade Expo West Challenge. Ten female entrepreneurs will pitch their business plans to Frito-Lay executives and other industry leaders for a chance to win $100,000 in business grants.
Applicants are required to have an established food or beverage product business with a minimum of $500,000 in annual sales. Finalists will present to a panel at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim on March 6. The first-place winner will receive $50,000, and the second- and third-place contestants will receive $30,000 and $20,000, respectively.
Submissions were accepted through Feb. 10.
“We actually have over 100 applications of really high quality,” Ms. Dilley said. “We have been thrilled with the response.”
The challenge is part of broader efforts within PepsiCo to engage and support food and beverage start-ups. The company recently announced the 10 emerging food and beverage brands joining its second annual North America Greenhouse accelerator program. Participating start-ups receive $20,000 in grant funding and six months of mentoring.
“We recognize very humbly that a lot of growth in better-for-you snacking is happening at the start-up and entrepreneurial level,” Ms. Dilley said. “In my job, it’s really important that I connect with this community on an ongoing basis so I can understand what are the trends that are growing, who are the businesses that are driving that growth, and how can we learn from them as well as supporting them?”
PepsiCo created an online WomanMade community in partnership with Alice, a platform for women and other underrepresented entrepreneurs, providing a wide range of resources for small food and beverage businesses at helloalice.com/communities/womanmade-by-pepsico.
“Businesses founded by women are often different than business founded by men because they have different insights and different needs,” Ms. Dilley said. “How do we support those women in not only getting access to funds but also believing in themselves and growing their businesses?”
Another PepsiCo program, Stacy’s Rise Project, provides funding, mentorship and community to female founders of food and beverage businesses. Stacy Madison, the founder of Stacy’s Pita Chip Co., which PepsiCo acquired in 2006, is a mentor.
“Women respond really positively to mentoring and coaching, and yet they’re not getting access to that,” Ms. Dilley said. “As we develop our WomanMade program we’re taking into account the real needs of female founders and delivering access to tools that can help them grow their businesses.”
The WomanMade Expo West Challenge will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. March 6 at the Marriott Marquis Northwest ballroom and is open to registered attendees with an Expo West exhibit hall pass.