InnovateHer Competition – Local Pitch Winner Selected

On November 30, 2015, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) worked with the Small Business Association (SBA) Office of Women’s Business Ownership and SBDC of Michigan to host the InnovateHER Challenge West Michigan, a nationwide business pitch competition that aims to find the most innovative products and services that help empower women’s lives.

InnovateHER banner with 3 logos

Why? Over the past two decades, women entrepreneurs have been a critical aspect of starting and growing businesses and creating jobs. Women entrepreneurs have found their place in cutting-edge fields like precision medicine, cybersecurity, engineering, manufacturing, and more. Women entrepreneurs have proven that they can excel in any industry. Unfortunately, the number of women venture capital partners dropped to 6 percent in 2014, down from 10 percent in 1999. This drop is directly correlated with women’s access to capital. Only 7 percent of venture capital funding in the United States goes to women. This is where GROW and the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership come in.

The InnovateHER Challenge is focused on providing a platform to fulfill the need for a product that can have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families and have the potential for commercialization. It must also fill a need in the marketplace, as any new business pitch would. While many applied for the local competition, four women entrepreneurs were chosen for the final pitch.

West Michigan Pitch Participants

The local participants that competed in the InnovateHER Challenge West Michigan Challenge included:

  • Sara Grey, Owner of RebelEats
  • Kristian Grant, Owner of Mini Mogul Group
  • Deborah Tacoma, Owner of Freedom Creators, Inc.
  • Melissa Birnie, Owner of MKB13



Sara Grey has had a highly successful career for over 11 years as an attorney. Now, Sara is putting her diligent work ethic and skills to work toward her passion for food and nutrition by creating an innovative food company called RebelEats. RebelEats offers vegan gluten-free products that make fresh, nutritious meals in minutes. The products focus on familiar textures and tastes with a twist and are intended to replace the traditional protein part of meals. RebelEats’ goal is to be a leader in transforming our food system to one that promotes and supports health and sustainability through plant-based eating.

Mini Mogul Group Logo
Kristian Grant is the creator of Mini Mogul Group. Kristian is committed to helping others push through the challenges of life to help them pursue their dreams. After the success of her women’s clothing store, Sydney’s Boutique, Kristian has been giving other young entrepreneurs a space to meet, explore, and discuss ideas, which led to the creation of Mini Mogul Group. Mini Mogul Group focuses on instilling an by working with schools, parents, and the community to equip children with the tools they need to identify their passion and develop their business sense.

Freedom Wand Image
Deborah Tacoma’s idea came to her following a 2006 car accident in 2006, which resulted in a broken back. This led to Deborah developing the personal hygiene device she calls the FreedomWand, a multi-length, multi-task medical device. It can be used from 7” to 30″ and can hold a loofah, a shaver, an ointment sponge, and the all-important toilet tissue. It breaks into three pieces and comes in a portable cloth carry bag, allowing for an active, independent lifestyle.


Melissa Birnie is an avid networker who is passionate about people. As many of us know all too well, networking is hard enough without trying to multitask and manage several items at once. Her business, MKB13, helps keep clients organized so they can focus on the conversation without distraction.


The Results

Congratulations to Deborah Tacoma and her product, the FreedomWand, on winning the InnovateHer Challenge West Michigan competition. Deborah’s business plan has now been submitted to the national pitch competition for review. Best of luck, Deborah!

How can GROW help you?

Stay tuned for news and updates as the competition progresses. And if you are looking for help in honing your business plan, understanding your financial plan, or creating a marketing plan, or if you just need someone to talk to about what’s next for your business, we can help. You can start by attending Intro to GROW to see all we have to offer, or contact us today.