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The Women’s Opportunities Resource Center recently honored three winners with its Impact Business Plan awards during a ceremony held in conjunction with Small Business Week.
The winners include first place winner and Young Trailblazer of the Year, Melissa D’Agostino, owner of D’Agostino Fashion Textile Design; second place winner, Gennifer Miller, founder of Healthy Textures, a membership website that focuses on ethnic hair care; and Crystal Wyatt, founder of Ride and Rebuild, a transportation service for families of the incarcerated, who received an honorable mention.
“The whole notion of competing and scrutinizing your business plan is always a healthy exercise,” Miller said in response to participating in WORC’s competition.
“I was not really compared to be in a room where it didn’t matter who won because the wealth of the connections and the relationships that I developed in the four-hour span that we were pitching our businesses were worth more than anything.”
After experiencing struggles with damaged hair, Miller began to research different products and materials that held to reverse damage to ethnic or coarse hair.
“I grew up not really knowing how to care for my hair (and) how to style it,” said Miller.
Miller first started out with a blog that attracted thousands of followers. Building on the experience gleaned from blogging about healthy hair care, Miller officially launched www.healthytextures.com in 2008.
“I wanted something that I thought combined everything that I felt was educational for women — having written content, video content and a kind of interactive component but I wanted to do it as a membership site because it allowed me to not be committed to certain advertiser,” said Miller.
“I’m really focused on the consumers needs and addressing those, as opposed to pushing the latest products or hair fads.”
Miller is utilizing her $1,000 cash award to hold a workshop on summer hair on June 12 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Parc Ritttenhouse.
As someone who is used to doing presentations before equity investors who seek ways to discredit a business venture, Miller welcomed the chance to pitch her business plan to a group of positive judges.
“They were energized by what we were talking about and wanted to see us succeed,” she said.
The judging panel included Rubi Pacheco-Rivera of the Department of Commerce; Sonja Sherwood of the Philadelphia Business Journal; Donna Ali of Team Clean; Melinda Emerson of Small Biz Lady; and Kenna Weiner of Functionista (2010 Impact Awards winner).
“Helping women and disadvantaged individuals start and grow small businesses is very important to growing our local economy,” said Lynne Cutler, executive director of WORC.
“At WORC we do this by providing the tools and resources — training, micro loans and savings — that allow women to create opportunities for themselves and others.”
WORC awarded local design and retailer Sarah Van Aken with its annual Community Impact Award to signify the economic importance and social impact of her nationally-known products and sales techniques.
Van Aken has won the acclaim of the fashion industry for the quality of her clothing’s construction and for her socially-responsible business practices and commitment to local job creation. Using funding from the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, Van Aken trained seamstresses in Philadelphia, allowing her to manufacture her pieces locally and create twenty-two full-time jobs.
“Philadelphia was once known as the business and manufacturing hot spot for the entire country,” said Karen Randal, director of the Department of Commerce’s Office of Business Attraction and Retention.
“It’s people like Sarah Van Aken that are going to bring our city back to those times.”
The winners were chosen from seven panelists including Rochelle L. Beard, Magnolia Dreams; Shaina Caldwell, Kindest Regards; Molly Hayward, ETHOS and Ernestine Johnson, Syncrani.
The Impact Awards are funded by Citibank and Independence Blue Cross.
“We were incredibly impressed with all of the women who submitted business plans this year,” said Don Haskin, senior vice president at Citi Community Development.
“We recognize that small businesses, like our winners, play an important role in our regional economy. We also realize that the services WORC provides to support women who may struggle to get their ideas off the ground because of lack of funding are critical.” — (AP)
Why I like it:
Miller, an MBA graduate, produces online seminars, gives product reviews, and produces how-to video tutorials and DVD’s on everything from how to wrap your hair to roller setting. Members can also upload their own hair how-to videos.
Readers share their hair-health discoveries.
By Gennifer Miller
I discovered I had the “D word” one hot summer day in 2006. I reached over to adjust my purse strap when I noticed a group of flakes on my shoulder. I gasped…is that DANDRUFF?! I panicked, raced home and spent the next few hours glued to the Internet.
I learned that dandruff is a type of scalp- or skin-related disease and is associated with a tiny fungus called pityrosporum ovale. This fungus lives on our scalp naturally but can lead to dandruff when teamed with
certain external (direct heat-styling methods, use of alcohol-intensive, overly harsh styling products, etc.) and internal (stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, etc.) “triggers.”
At this time, I was still a student (translation: remove “lack of sleep” and “stress” from above list) and was using natural products and minimal heat styling to maintain my hair. As a result, I reluctantly decided to focus on my diet, which consisted of a lot of processed foods and sugary drinks.
I put myself through a nutrition boot camp. I drank 64 ounces of water daily and incorporated a lot of foods with B vitamins, such as meats, whole grains, vegetables and nuts, which, I found out, can help control dandruff and dry scalp. I started exercising and wetting my scalp daily, sealing in the moisture with a few drops of coconut oil. Within a month, I was able to enjoy the summer with a flake-free scalp and a wonderful new complexion. I haven’t had to google the “D word” since.
Gennifer Miller is the founder of Healthytextures.com, a website advocating a do-it-yourself approach to healthier hair. Her website features dozens of tips, articles and videos on healthy hairstyling and maintenance.