CareAble Sensory Products named as national finalist for InnovateHER Business Challenge
Northeast Indiana entrepreneurs Marna Pacheco of Winona Lake and Susan Hickok of Fort Wayne have been selected to compete as one of 10 finalists in the national Small Business Administration (SBA) InnovateHER Business Challenge for Innovations That Empower Women’s Lives on October 27 in Washington, D.C. Pacheco and Hickok co-founded CapeAble Sensory Products, LLC, located in Fort Wayne, and will compete alongside nine other innovative companies for a total of $70,000 funding. “It is always fantastic to see an Indiana small business recognized nationally,” stated Stacey Poynter, SBA Indiana District Director. “I commend CapeAble for their innovative products and progress they’ve made with their company. I also thank our partners at The NIIC for hosting and the InnovateHER Northeast Indiana Pitch Competition Planning Committee for such a valuable competition last spring.”
According to SBA, “The 10 finalists were selected through a rigorous nationwide competition held by host organizations, including universities, accelerators, and SBA Resource Partners that ran local area competitions through June 3, 2017. Next, an executive committee of SBA officials evaluated more than 120 semi-finalist nominations and chose 10 finalists to participate in the National Pitch Competition, whose products and services best meet the competition criteria and present the greatest potential for success.”
CapeAble Sensory Products produces weighted blankets for better sleep, fashionable weighted wearables and sensory-enrichment tools. “In today’s overscheduled and hectic world, CapeAble’s innovative products provide something that everyone needs: comfort, focus and hope,” said Pacheco. “We refer to our exclusive, patent-pending design as the science behind the comfort.”
“CapeAble Sensory Products has a compelling story that began with the two co-founders’ children and their needs and grew into a dream to serve others and improve their lives as well. They are making such a difference is so many lives through their company. We applaud Marna and Susan on all that they’ve accomplished and wish them the best at the national competition,” said Tania D. Vanderlaan, Interim Director, Women’s Economic Opportunity Center (WEOC).
Each finalist is invited to present a marketing pitch before a team of expert judges to compete for the top three awards totaling $70,000 in prize money, provided by The Sara Blakely Foundation. Finalists’ trip expenses are being paid by local sponsoring organizations. For CapeAble Sensory Products, local sponsors include Fort Wayne Chapter of SCORE, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC), Northeast Indiana Small Business Development Center (Northeast ISBDC), Brightpoint, Community Development Corporation (CDC) of Northeast Indiana, and the Women’s Economic Opportunity Center (WEOC).
Hickok said, “We feel fortunate that our business is located in Northeast Indiana. The variety of available resources and the willingness of the local business community to come alongside us have been invaluable in developing and growing our business,” Pacheco added, “Every person can benefit from CapeAble Sensory Products. Our mission is to provide comfort, focus and hope. We are excited to provide this innovative solution to a hurting world.”
Pacheco and Hickok recognize the support they have received along the way from their families and the local community. They like to say, “Together, we are CapeAble.” They have been well served by Bill Causey, Mentor, Fort Wayne Chapter of SCORE, who advised them through significant changes in their business model. They have also consulted with Nicole Heffelfinger, Business Advisor, Northeast Indiana Small Business Development Center(Northeast ISBDC), to develop financial projections and obtain bank re-financing for company growth from 1st Source Bank; Joseph Perry, Development Fund Manager, Brightpoint, to obtain a microloan for their business; and Mike Fritsch, Entrepreneur in Residence, The NIIC, for business coaching and advice.
This announcement comes on the heels of CapeAble being named the Outstanding Innovative Business of 2017 at the national SCORE Awards Gala, September 14, in McLean, Va. The company also won a state award on May 3 from the Indiana Small Business Development Center for Economic Development and Growth through Entrepreneurship (EDGE), in recognition of the firm’s initial success as a Hoosier business.
In April 2017 CapeAble was also named the winner of the InnovateHER Northeast Indiana Competition, competing with five finalists at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC) in Fort Wayne. The local competition was hosted by the Fort Wayne Chapter of SCORE in partnership with The NIIC, Northeast ISBDC, Brightpoint, the CDC of Northeast Indiana, and the WEOC. Steve Rinehart, InnovateHER Northeast Indiana Competition Committee Chair and Fort Wayne Chapter of SCORE Mentor said, “This is a tremendous achievement for CapeAble. I would like to thank all of those who participated in the local event in April and helped make it a great success. To me, Marna and Susan are excellent role models for any entrepreneur, as they have sacrificed much and fought long and hard through adversity to bring this level of success to their company and their dreams. The awards and recognition are more than well deserved.”