PepsiCo flies the flag for female entrepreneurs in inaugural Shark Tank-style challenge

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

PepsiCo is celebrating women in business. Pic: GettyImages/DGLimages
PepsiCo is celebrating women in business. Pic: GettyImages/DGLimages

Related tags Pepsico Frito-lay north america WomenMade women in business empowerment Stacey's Rise Project Alice

Frito-Lay North America is hoping to disrupt the typical funding pattern that sees just 3% of female-founded businesses get the support they need with its inaugural WomanMade Female Funding Challenge.

According to PitchBook Data, of all venture capitalist funding invested in 2018, only 2.2% was given to female-founded companies and only 0.2% went to diverse female entrepreneurs.

Additionally, research shows that female entrepreneurs often have less access than male counterparts to the tools and resources they need to launch and sustain successful businesses.

However, a study conducted by Mass Challenge and BCG found that businesses founded by women deliver higher revenue – more than two times as much per dollar invested – than those founded by men.

Within its mission to champion diversity and inclusion, PepsiCo has launched the WomanMade Female Funding Challenge, to honour female entrepreneurs in the food and beverage arena.

The snack giant sifted through hundreds of submissions to select 10 outstanding finalists  – all of whom pull In $500,000 in annual revenue – who will each will pitch their concept in a live, rapid-fire format to industry experts at Expo West next week.

The finalists

  • Kate Flynn of Sun & Swell Foods, which makes better-for-you energy snack bites, clean cookies, trail mixes and crackers
  • Rana Lustyan of Edoughble, a small-batch, safe to eat cookie dough brand
  • Katie Jesionowsk of My SuperFoods, maker of allergen free nutrient-rich kiddies snacks that contain superfood ingredients like acai and baobab
  • Jill Robbins of Homefree, a certified B Corporation that makes allergy-friendly treats with a strong commitment to environmental and social responsibility
  • Nydia Shipman of The Worthy Co., the first plant-based, all-in-one snack bowl made for on-the-go, comprising veggies, fruits, legumes and chia
  • Cecilia Panichelli of Cocina 54, which makes heritage-inspired empanadas from scratch with fresh veggies and antibiotic-free meats
  • Jessica Levison of Peekaboo Ice Cream, an indulgent ice cream dessert made from hidden veggies
  • Brooke Rewa of Goodmylk, the first company to scale homemade plant-based milks without the use of binders, gums, fillers or preservatives
  • Sashee Chandran of Tea Drops, organic-shaped teas that dissolve instantly in hot water and  generate 20% less waste than traditional tea packaging
  • Allison DeVane of Teaspressa, an organic tea that packs the same caffeine content as espresso

Each finalist will have five minutes to present her business plan, followed by a five minute rally of questions by the all-female judging panel.

The judges:

  • Ciara Dilley; VP of marketing Frito-Lay Transform Brands & Portfolio Innovation
  • Jen Saenz, president of global foods, PepsiCo
  • Lisa Lillien, author and founder of
  • Shane Emmett, co-founder of Health Warrior
  • Hannah Hong, co-founder of Hakuna Brands and winner of the 2019 Stacy’s Rise Project

The Shark Tank-style pitch-fest will award the top three entrepreneurs a stake of the $100,000 in business grants. The winner will take home $50,000; second place will receive $30,000 and third place will receive $20,000.

All the finalists will receive support through an online WomanMade Community, which PepsiCo created in partnership with Alice,​a free multi-channel platform that helps women and other underrepresented entrepreneurs. They will also receive tickets to Alice's Business for All conferences in 2020.

 “We were blown away by the 100+ submissions we received for our inaugural WomanMade challenge, and while it was difficult to narrow down the outstanding work being done by women in the food and beverage industry, the 10 women we’ve selected as finalists are so deserving of the recognition,”​ said Dilley.

“Dedicated to championing diversity and inclusion, our entire WomanMade team is proud to do our part in providing much-needed support to female founders as they scale their businesses.

“We’re honoured to highlight these women as they continue to be a driving force in our industry.”

Empowering women

The WomanMade Female Challenge is part of broader efforts within PepsiCo to engage and support disruptive startups.

The company recently announced the 10 emerging brands that have been inducted into its second annual North America Greenhouse accelerator programme, while it’s Stacy’s Rise Project provides funding, mentorship and community to female entrepreneurs.

The WomanMade Expo West Challenge will be held from 7:30am to 9:30am on Friday, March 6, in the Marriott Marquis Northwest ballroom at Expo West, being held in Anaheim, California.

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