Stacy’s Rise Project celebrates female ingenuity and empowerment


While food and beverage trends ebb and flow, the innovative, inspirational women behind those businesses are celebrated in Stacy’s Rise Project.

Sometimes the best ideas may never see the light of day. Stacy’s Rise Project looks to help female innovators and entrepreneurs to feel empowered within the food and beverage industry. In addition to funding, the program looks to foster, mentor and network relationships within the industry. While the concept might sound simple, that committed and connected environment can make an idea a reality.

Did you know that only “2.3 percent of venture capitalist funding” is given to female founders? While reality television shows might give the impression that innovative female thinkers go from concept to store shelves, the reality is far more tenuous. Sometimes that woman innovator can needs support from initial concept to final launch. Through this type of program, women can get assistance in addition to that check.

As part of the Stacy’s Rise Project, this year’s finalists were celebrated by Frito-Lay, PepsiCo and fellow entrepreneur and Top Chef host/executive producer Padma Lakshmi. The event was more than just announcing this year’s grand prize winner. It was a celebration that women have, and will continue to have, an influential voice in the food and beverage industry.

According to Lakshmi, these women “are an inspiration to not only other women who share a similar drive and passion to build something of their own, but to investors as proof that female entrepreneurs warrant consideration and funding.”

Women entrepreneurs bring a unique perspective to the industry. As Ciara Dilley, vice president, marketing, Frito-Lay North America said, “their personal experiences in the marketplace offered our own team members a unique start-up perspective that made the mentorship program a win-win as we learned from each other.”

Stacy’s Pita Chips, photo provided by Stacy’s

Again, this program is more than just rewarding the best and brightest in the industry. The Stacy’s Rise Project is a strong reminder that when women come together, they can be even stronger. Building each other up is much more productive than tearing others down.

The Stacy’s Rise Project grand prize was awarded to Hannah Hong, founder of Hakuna Brands. Hakuna Brands is a “banana-based, non-dairy frozen yogurt dessert.”

Thinking about this concept, the idea is definitely on trend within the food industry. Plant-based foods are growing in popularity. Plus, the idea stemmed from the concept of offering a product for lactose intolerant consumers. It filled a need in a smart, innovative way.

In many ways, women-focused businesses tend to find that niche that some brands overlook. Just like Stacy’s Pita Chips did a long time ago. Viable solutions are out there as long as innovators voices have a platform to share them.

While Hakuna Brands was the grand prize winner, it seems likely that other ideas will come from this program. The 2019 Stacy’s Rise Project “has awarded more than $300,000 to women in the food and beverage industry to advance their business plans.” It will be interesting to see what comes next.

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What is the most innovative project that you have seen recently? Did it have a female entrepreneur behind it?