Local healthy snack startup owner Akissi Stokes uses an insect farm model that incorporates IoT technology to harvest insects as a micro-livestock. She is one of six Atlanta women entrepreneurs who have been awarded a total of $60,000 in grants as part of The (Tech) Tip Off pitch competition.
The competition, powered by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) and the Atlanta Hawks Foundation, was created to help Atlanta women entrepreneurs raise their profiles, earn grants to support their business dreams, and learn from tech companies across the city. Competing entrepreneurs were evaluated by a panel of judges representing Atlanta business and community leaders.
“It’s not just the workshops that make the WEI program so impactful; it’s the wrap around services, the network of women and the opportunity to actually apply what you learn to your business,” said Stokes. “This experience is a milestone for me, because today I’m comfortable pitching my business and one year ago, I was not.”
The (Tech) Tip Off grants were awarded in two categories: the first for current WEI Cohort members participating in the competition, and the second for other Atlanta-based entrepreneurs. First place winners in both categories received a $15,000 grant; second place winners received a $10,000 grant; and third place winners received a $5,000 grant.
“As an organization, we are always looking for ways to elevate women entrepreneurs,” said Monica Delores Hooks, executive director of Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, the City of Atlanta’s business incubator for early stage, women-owned businesses. “Developing these workshops and the pitch competition offered a way to help our key audiences launch and grow a successful start-up by leveraging technology.”
As part of this effort, Atlanta Hawks Foundation donated $100,000 from the proceeds of the sales of its historic 2020-21 MLK Nike City Edition Jersey to WEI to fund business workshops, the pitch competition, and grants for metro area women entrepreneurs.
“The Atlanta Hawks understand how vitally important it is to not only provide funding, but the exposure to the right contacts and the right technology in helping new businesses be set up for success,” said David Lee, executive vice president of External Affairs for the Atlanta Hawks and executive director of the Hawks Foundation. “Our foundation is proud to support the work of WEI and play a part in launching a new crop of female-led businesses in our city.”
Atlanta-Based Entrepreneur Category
- 1st Place: Claudine Miles of Restore More building capacity through restorative practice, anti-racism, and social emotional learning for students, educators, and parents.
- 2nd Place: Tia Robinson of Vertical Activewear supporting inner and outer well-being through sustainable and size-inclusive activewear for yoga, dance, and meditation.
- 3rd Place: Elissa Russell of READI Consulting providing a tech-enabled workforce readiness solution to upskill and reskill entry level workers.
WEI Cohort Category
- 1st Place: Akissi Stokes of WUNDERgrubs producing high-quality insect protein using the Internet of Things (IoT) to disrupt the supply chain and cultivating sustainable farming practices that help restore natural resources, reduce carbon emissions, improve nutrition, and promote food security.
- 2nd Place: Sarah Marske of Saramar Group connecting brands to the U.S. Hispanic market through purpose-driven marketing solutions.
- 3rd Place: Evana and Zoe Oli of Beautiful Curly Me teaching young girls the importance of hair care, while fostering self-confidence and love through dolls and accessories.
WEI is the only municipally-funded program of its kind in the nation that is focused on women’s entrepreneurship for early-stage startups. The program was launched by the City of Atlanta in 2015 to align entrepreneurial opportunities for women in Atlanta with the City’s economic development programs. WEI is part of Invest Atlanta, the City of Atlanta’s economic development authority, and furthers the goal of creating equity and prosperity for all of Atlanta.