11/17/2015 - Registration for the InnovateHer Competition is now closed.

InnovateHer Competition 2016

Houston Community College in collaboration with the City of Houston-Office of Business Opportunity announce the InnovateHER Competition, sponsored by the SBA (Small Business Administration).

InnovateHER 2016 is designed to help identify products and services that impact and empower the lives of women and families.

Our workforce looks very different from 50 years ago. Women now make up nearly half of the labor force and play a critical role in our nation's economic prosperity. Most children live in households where all parents work. And as our population ages, families are increasingly caring for aging parents while balancing the needs of work and home. As the demands on women and families grow, the need for products and services that address these unique challenges increases. This Challenge will provide a platform to fulfill that need.


Local Winner:  Obella Be - Vivian Elebiyo

Vivan is the CEO and Inventor, oBella Be has created a team of Engineers, Doctors, Researchers, UI designers, a Medical Device Expert and business strategists to help research the market, understand the customer, develop the technology, and understand vital information for to-be moms and her physician.

oBella Be:  Obella be is an eco-system and wearable that gathers real time, safe and accurate information about a woman’s pregnancy from conception to delivery. Our mission is to create a product that would help save the lives of women and children around the world. obella be is a stylish, go-anywhere health companion that brings together everything you need to record, monitor and understand your health and your baby's development right at your fingertips.

Semi- Finalist List:

  • The Torres Center for Nutrition and Weight Loss - Ana Torres
  • Ruby Pink Saddle - Azul Cimerman Sariego
  • Star Fish Learning - Betty Akbar
  • Organic Soul Foods - Debra Hunter
  • Stepz of Faith - Faith Camp
  • My Trendy Place - Lisa Amosu
  • Houston Home Buyer Assistance - Nile Dixon
  • Clotills Catering - Tamedra Williams
  • Freedom Fighter for Families - Theresa Allen
  • Obella Be - Vivian Elebiyo

Local winner advances to SBA finals in Washington, D.C.

Prize National for Winners: 1st Place- $40,000; 2nd Place $20,000; 3rd Place-$10,000


Contestants must develop a product or service that meets the following three Challenge criteria:

  • Has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families (30%);
  • Has the potential for commercialization (40%); and
  • Fills a need in the marketplace (30%


  1. Citizen or permanent U.S. resident who is at least 18 years of age; and
  2. Private entities such as corporations or other organizations that are incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the U.S.
  3. Individuals submitting on behalf of corporations, nonprofits, or groups of individuals (such as an academic class or other team) must meet the eligibility requirements for individual contestants. An individual may belong to more than one team submitting an entry in this challenge.
  4. SBA employees are not eligible nor are Federal entities or Federal employees acting within the scope of their employment. Individuals or organizations that are currently suspected or disbarred by the federal government are not eligible for this Challenge.


Aruna Viswanathan
InnovatHER Judge - Aruna Viswanathan ‌Aruna Viswanathan is the Chief Underwriting Officer and Co-Founder for Clearspring Capital Group, founder of DSA Commercial, and President of TiE Houston -a global entrepreneurship organization. Formerly Vice-President and Director of Operations for the Houston Technology Center (HTC), Appointed by Governor Rick Perry, Vice-Chair of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund Committee, which was responsible for awarding $200 million to foster the commercialization of emerging technology within the State of Texas.
Tanya Makany-Rivera
InnovatHER Judge - Tanya Makany-Rivera ‌Tanya Makany-Rivera, MBAis the External Affairs Manager of the Office of Business Opportunity. In her role she leads external relations for the department and leads the Office of Business Opportunity Solutions Center team. Tanya is a government relations specialist with over ten years of governmental and non-profit experience who can successfully develop and execute marketing and public information campaigns. Tanya has been successful in a variety of lead roles related to community and media relations, community engagement and social media marketing.
Tim Jeffcoat
InnovatHER Judge - Timothy D. Jeffcoat ‌‌Tim Jeffcoat is the District Director of the Houston –US Small Business Administration (SBA).Tim is an experienced executive-level leader and change-agent. He has a diverse background with experience in the private industry, global market, government (fed, state, local), IT, general technology, and business-to-business solutions. The Houston SBA staff partners with HCC on many business events.
Sarah Groen
InnovatHER Judge - Sarah Groen ‌Sarah Groen is the GeneralManager of UberEverything in Houston.Sarah is passionate about building, growing, and investing in innovative companies and has expertise in business development, strategy, M&A, marketing, fundraising, and go-to-market strategies. Previously, Sarah was the Vice President of Strategy & Marketing at MicroSeismic Inc., a co-founder and past Director of SURGE Accelerator, a private equity investor, and an oil and gas investment banker. Sarah volunteers and mentors with Red Labs Accelerator and Owl Spark Accelerator.
Warren Winston
InnovatHER Judge - Warren Winston ‌Warren Winston is a Business Advisor with HCC’s Houston Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Warren has worked with some of the top executives and entrepreneurs in the country by showing them how to increase sales, reduce costs, improve productivity and gain higher margins using a values based approach to manage their business. A successful entrepreneur; author, and highly sought after leader in the marketplace, Warren is also a certified coach, trainer and speaker with the John Maxwell Team.

Key Dates

  • November 5, 2015 - Training Session, West Loop Campus (5601 West Loop) 6:00pm-8:00pm
  • November 10, 2015 - Training Session, West Loop Campus (5601 West Loop) 6:00pm-8:00pm
  • November 12, 2015 - Pitch Competition Training (learn how to make a great pitch!), 5601 West Loop, 6:00-8:00pm
  • November 16, 2015 - Deadline for Business Plan Submission.
  • November 30, 2015 - Finalist Presentations at 3100 Main, Auditorium; 2:00pm-4:00pm
  • December 2, 2015  -  HCC submits finalist to SBA! Each finalist will be offered the opportunity to participate in the InnovateHer Final Challenge to be held on March 17, 2016 in Washington D.C. where they will make a live marketing pitch to a panel of expert judges drawn from the private sector. Finalists will be responsible for covering their own travel costs for the national competition.

Competition Opened on October 12, 2015 and will close on November 16, 2015

Training Sessions

Two training sessions are offered (at no charge) to help develop a solid and winning Business Plan. Registration for the training sessions is required. Training sessions will be at the HCC West Loop Campus, 5601 West Loop on Thursday, November 5th from 6:00pm-8:00pm and Tuesday, November 10th from 6:00pm-8:00pm.

If you need additional assistance with your business plan: Assistance will be available the week of November 9-12, 2015 from 1:00-pm to 5:00pm.

Individual assistance is available as well.

Contact Mr. Brahmbhatt at ravi.brahmbhatt@hccs.edu or 713-718-5269.