Stacy’s Rise Project chooses a delicious winner

by Allison Hatfield | December 9, 2019

This summer, five female entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry came together in Plano after being named finalists in the inaugural Stacy’s Rise Project. There they received money and mentoring through the program sponsored by Stacy’s Pita Chips, a brand started by a Massachusetts woman named Stacy Madison and purchased in 2005 by Frito-Lay. Each finalist earned $20,000 in business funding and three months of guidance from marketing, sales, innovation, R&D, and digital executives at PepsiCo and Frito-Lay.

In November, one of the women — Los Angeles’ Hannah Hong, who founded Hakuna Brands, a plant-based line of frozen desserts, was named the $100,000 grand prize Stacy’s Rise Project winner.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 04: Ahead of Womens Entrepreneurship Day, entrepreneur Padma Lakshmi partners with Stacy’s Pita Chips to celebrate female founders in the food and beverage industry at a luncheon marking the culmination of the inaugural Stacys Rise Project on November 04, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Stacy’s Pita Chips)

A first-generation American and daughter of two entrepreneurs, Hong left her corporate job to partner with her best friend on Hakuna Brands, which sells banana-based and oat milk-based ice creams at Central Market stores in Dallas and Southlake. Hong says that she has reaped many rewards with the Stacy’s Rise Project and is confident that what she has learned through the program will benefit customers and employees for years to come.

The other finalists in the third annual Stacy’s Rise initiative were:

  • Hannah Dehradunwala, of New York City, who built Transfernation, the first technology-based, on-demand food rescue service, allowing food providers to request pickups for untouched extra food to be taken to homeless shelters or food banks.
  • Pilar Gonzalez, of Mission, Texas, who started Habibi Gourmet in her home kitchen to create preservative-free dips.
  • Kate Holby, of Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania, whose Ajiri Tea employs women in western Kenya to make the packaging for its tea and coffee boxes and donates all profits to the Ajiri Foundation to pay school fees for orphans.
  • Michelle Liddle, of Victor, New York, who started Perfect Granola on the foundation of giving back, hiring at-risk youth, and sharing 5% of profits with homeless shelters, outreach centers, and food banks.

All of the women concluded their mentorship program and put the finishing touches on their updated business plans in late October.

Ciara Dilley, vice president of marketing at Frito-Lay North America, says supporting female-founded businesses makes sense for the company. “At Frito-Lay, we have a unique opportunity to create more opportunities for women both inside and outside our organization when we connect the power of a brand like Stacy’s and expertise of our people with female innovators who are driving the future of the food and beverage industry,” Dilley says.

More than 400 women entered the contest, which gave all entrants access to PepsiCo’s WomanMade community and included food expert, television host, and bestselling author Padma Lakshmi as a judge.

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