SCORE Names Three Grand Champions in 2018 American Small Business Championship
Owners of the Grindhouse Radio, My “Buddy” Towel, Pip & Grow Honored as Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Win $15,000 Each
WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Yesterday, SCORE, mentors to America’s small businesses, recognized three small business owners for their extraordinary entrepreneurial success, naming them Grand Champions of the 2018 American Small Business Championship (ASBC). Now in its fifth year, the ASBC is a national competition celebrating U.S. entrepreneurship and its positive impact on the economy, and offering resources for continued business growth. This year, the championship was made possible with a generous grant from Sam’s Club.
Three small businesses took the top honors, each winning $15,000 to help grow their businesses:
- The Grindhouse Radio (GHR) – An internationally-syndicated, award-winning pop culture talk radio series run by media personality Brimstone and partners Kim Adragna and Steve Zambito of N.Y., GHR has more than 3.5 million weekly listeners worldwide, and has earned regular spots in the iTunes Top 20 Best Comedic Podcasts rankings worldwide.
- My “Buddy” Towel – Designed by Angelyn Myers, an Oklahoma mom of six, this combination towel and onesie is designed to save busy parents time, stress and extra laundry when drying their children off after a bath or the pool.
- Pip & Grow – Founded on the philosophy that businesses have a responsibility to positively improve the lives of workers, customers and the planet, company founders Lauren Hughey, Kate Compton Barr and Amber Kroekercreated this eco-friendly, portable bassinet to reduce the risk of SIDS. Pip & Grow is also the 2018 SCORE Awards winner for Outstanding Retail Small Business.
In March of this year, 102 small businesses from 48 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia were named ASBC finalists and awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to a training and networking event in Reno, N.V., as well as mentoring from small business experts at SCORE. After an in-depth judging process, a panel of small business experts selected the three Grand Champions to receive grand prizes of $15,000 each based on how effectively they utilized the initial prizes to grow their business.
“For five years running, the American Small Business Championship has been an unparalleled program driving small business growth and sustainability across the U.S. We are so proud of these three exceptionally-accomplished and hardworking Grand Champions, each of whom embody a diverse snapshot of the American small business landscape,” said Resa Kierstein, vice president of development for SCORE.
The 2017 ASBC Grand Champions were Competitive Edge Athletic Performance Center, Grillo Essentials and One Community Auto.
For more information on the ASBC, visit http://championship.score.org.
Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 11 million aspiring entrepreneurs. Each year, SCORE’s 10,000 volunteer business experts provide 750,000+ free small business mentoring sessions, workshops and educational services to clients in 300 chapters nationwide. In 2017, SCORE volunteers helped to create 54,506 small businesses and 61,534 non-owner jobs.
For more information about starting or operating a small business, visit SCORE at www.score.org. Follow @SCOREMentors on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest small business news and updates.
Pip & Grow
- OWNER: Kate Compton Barr, Lauren Hughey and Amber Kroeker
- LOCATION: Portland, OR
- FORMED IN: 2016
For best friends Kate Compton Barr, Lauren Hughey and Amber Kroeker, an annual girls’ weekend was the launchpad for their now-thriving business.
Kroeker, an infant safety expert, knows that every year, 3,500 babies die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or suffocation. She identified a pattern and realized that many of these deaths could be prevented if infants 0-6 months old had a safe and portable sleep space. Kroeker had been awarded a $25,000 innovation grant from the University of Michigan to solve the problem by creating an American version of the 80-year-old Finnish Baby Box.
But during their annual get-together, Kroeker told Barr and Hughey that she had no idea how to get her product to market. Hughey says they “fell in love with the idea and agreed to jump on board and help launch the business.”
The Path to Success
According to Hughey, the three founders (who all live in different states) spent a year “climbing the business learning curve (trademarks, patents, SEO, website development, branding, prototype refinement, supply chain, logistics planning, etc.” They launched Pip & Grow at the ABC Kids Expo in 2016. Now, Hughey says, “a provisional patent, and a whole lot of learning later, the Smitten Sleep System is changing the way infants sleep by providing parents a convenient, recyclable and safe sleep option beyond a crib or pack-n-play.”
The Smitten Sleep System is a recyclable and portable bassinet box (about the size of a legal file box) that comes with a firm mattress, cotton sheet and carrying handles. It weighs just 2 pounds, yet can hold up to 100 pounds. The boxes are manufactured in Atlanta, Michigan and North Carolina. Hughey explains, “We chose to work with American manufacturers in communities that need the jobs the most, and who treat their workers well.”
How SCORE Helped
None of the founders have a business background. “We needed (and still need) help navigating this new world,” says Hughey. “We found SCORE just in time to help us.”
Hughey says their mentor, Jon Stuart, “keeps us on track, encourages us and raises red flags if we start to go off course.”
Barr, Hughey and Kroeker have worked with Stuart for two years and interact at least once a month. Hughey says, “Jon is amazing. He is my brain trust and my cheerleader. He gives me honest advice, even if it’s hard to hear. He connects me to other experts who can help. He gives me perspective. He helps me identify obstacles and figure out solutions to work around them. He lets me work on my own time, but doesn’t allow me to get lazy. He keeps me from getting discouraged on this wild ride. Jon keeps me sane!”
Hughey adds, “SCORE made us significantly more efficient, because we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We could lean on an entire stable of experts who have already ‘been there, done that.’ We would have made a lot more mistakes and not have grown on a stable foundation.”
The trio have learned a lot from Stuart. Hughey shares some of those lessons:
- “Failure is not permanent. You have to pick yourself up off the ground and keep moving forward.”
- “No matter how hard you work, you cannot run a successful business alone. The stronger your network, the more successful you’ll be.”
- “Done is better than perfect.”
Pip & Grow Today
Hughey is proud of what they’ve accomplished so far. She says, “In 18 months we started from scratch and are now profitable. We’ve created a new market — a lot of American parents aren’t sure about their child sleeping in a cardboard bassinet, even though families in Europe have been using them for nearly 80 years.”
Stuart agrees that Pip & Grow is on a prosperous path. He says, “They’ve had great success to this point, with even greater to come.”
In March 2018, Pip & Grow was named a finalist in the American Small Business Championship (ASBC). Hughey and Kroeker attended the ASBC symposium, and promptly “changed the way we approached social media and increased our Instagram followers by more than 50 percent and our Twitter followers by more than 25 percent.” Moreover, says Hughey, “Sales have skyrocketed since our training.”
Pip & Grow has since been named one of the three 2018 ASBC Grand Champions, meaning that they were awarded $15,000 to grow their business, courtesy of Sam’s Club. Pip & Grow is also the 2018 SCORE Award winner for Outstanding Retail Small Business, presented by Liberty Tax.
Paying it Forward
Pip & Grow’s vision is built around paying it forward. As Hughey says, “We believe that it’s possible to do good while doing well.”
Hughey adds, “I am most proud of keeping babies safe and bringing a new product to market in an ethical way. I sleep well at night knowing that we are supporting American families with our manufacturing and that we aren’t adding a ton of plastic waste to the planet.”
If you’re thinking of starting a business, Hughey says, “Go for it! It’s a wild ride of highs and lows, but if you believe in your business and do the work, the rest will come.”