Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) was the local host for the 2016 InnovateHER “Innovating for Business Challenge.” The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the nationwide InnovateHER Challenge in August 2015, with the goal of finding products and services that help empower the lives of women and families. This past November, ten Maui finalists proved once again that Maui is a launching pad for empowering entrepreneurs. Each gave a five-minute pitch for their product or service to a panel of judges. The judges took into account criteria such as whether the proposal had a measurable improvement in the lives of community members, potential for commercialization and filled a need in the marketplace.
In a close competition, Pamela Norris of Wailuku was named the Maui winner. Norris won for her product, the ICEBUDDY System, a portable cooling system that utilizes new technology to transport medicine, water and supplies for emergencies. “My lifetime has been spent trying to make a positive difference in the world,” said Norris. “That journey has taken me from teaching everything from the pre-school level to post-graduate, training security and law enforcement officers and directing mental health services. Now this experience has brought me to a point where I choose to focus my talents on developing revolutionary products that serve unmet needs.”
As the Maui winner, Norris took home a cash award from MEDB. She will also have the opportunity to be considered for SBA’s national competition which will be held in Washington D.C. in March 2016 as part of a larger Women’s Summit. If selected, she will compete against other finalists nationwide and have an opportunity to pitch her idea to a panel of expert judges drawn from the private sector. Three winners will be chosen and awarded up to $70,000 in cash prizes.
“I hope SBA continues to grow this competition,” said Gerry Smith, MEDB Director of Business Development. “Not only will programs such as these help women break through that glass ceiling in terms of business and entrepreneurship, but also will provide opportunities to help empower women and families and ultimately help to build communities.”
My winning venture, the ICEBUDDY system, is a portable cooling system that enables ice, water, medication and emergency supplies to be stored and transported easily.