Meet the 2017 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Winners
Congratulations to Our Winners!
For the past five years, the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to innovative small-business owners nationwide. Every year, we are wowed by the innovation, social mindfulness and creativity of these companies — as well as the undeniable passion of the entrepreneurs who started them.
Grand Prize Winner
Sword & Plough – Denver, CO
The product: Urban bags and accessories created from used tents, sleeping bag covers, bullet casings and other military surplus.
Sisters Emily Núñez Cavness and Betsy Núñez grew up in a military family, lived at West Point, and shared Thanksgiving with hundreds of soldiers each year. The experience not only inspired Cavness to become an officer in the U.S. Army herself, but to create a company, along with her sister, to give back to the military veterans they admire so much.
In 2012, Cavness and Nunez founded Sword & Plough, an “upcycling” company that transforms military surplus into fashionable, functional urban bags, clothing and accessories. Everything is U.S. made by companies that employ veterans, and 10 percent of profits are donated to veteran organizations.
In the short time that this Denver-based company has been in business, it has supported 65 veteran jobs, has repurposed more than 35,000 pounds of military surplus, and through awareness, has worked to bridge the civilian-military divide.
“Sword & Plough’s ‘repurpose with a purpose’ model positively impacts our military veterans, our environment, and promotes greater understanding between the military and civilian world,” said Bonnie Voldeng, director of Go-to-Market and Content Strategy at FedEx. “This company, and the visionary entrepreneurs behind it, represent just how important small businesses are, not only to the U.S. economy, but to society as a whole.”
Silver Prize Winner
Flexfrost Protein Ice Cream – Glen Ridge, NJ
The product: Delicious ice cream with more protein than Greek yogurt and fewer added sugars.
How can you not love a company that makes nutrition fun and tasty? Frustrated by health foods that either tasted bad or weren’t quite as healthy as they claimed, Flexfrost Founder Yang Bai decided that it was time for a change. He created a delicious, high-protein ice cream made from hand-sourced ingredients that transform everyone’s favorite freezer treat into something you can feel good about eating.
Flexfrost products are rBGH and GMO free, yet feel like an indulgence. Recently, the Flexfrost team has started introducing their product to dieticians in school systems, so kids can learn early on that good nutrition can also come from foods that taste great too.
For Bai, it’s more than just ice cream – it’s a way to raise awareness about what we all put in our bodies. That’s Flexfrost’s passion, it’s Bai’s mission, it’s his vision for a better world.
Bronze Prize Winners
Yellow Scope – Portland, OR
The product: Rigorous, creative, award-winning science kits for girls.
It’s all about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) these days. But, although the world is recognizing that science isn’t just a “boy thing,” science kits for girls tended to be a little too bubble gum and perfume for two Portland, Oregon scientists and moms.
Yellow Scope Co-founders Marcie Colledge, PhD, and Kelly McCollum, MPH, met while volunteering at their children’s science fair in 2008. They became fast friends and, together, created popular, theme-based science experiments for the school. In 2014, these two brilliant women decided to transform their passion into a business. They developed a line of science kits for girls that are smart, challenging, fun and free of the pervasive stereotypes currently dominating the toy aisles.
This self-funded start-up is committed to showing that girl power doesn’t have to come with a pink package, and that every girl can be a scientist, if she believes she can.
Terra Klay – Naperville, IL
The product: Beautiful, handcrafted black clay tea ware created by female artists in India.
Terra Klay was inspired by the handmade traditions of the artisan communities of Manipur, India, where handmade black clay pottery is a recognized art form. Company Founder Manvee Vaid wants to connect traditional beauty to the modern world, offering fair trade, hand-crafted tea ware, created by female tribal artisans in India who dream of becoming entrepreneurs.
By bringing this black clay tea ware to a broader audience, Manvee creates opportunities where there currently are few, helps elevate these artisans’ status in their communities, and gives the world a unique product to enjoy. As she says, “Your tea will taste sweeter” when you know you’re buying pottery that does so much good.
Nurdle in the Rough Jewelry – Holualoa, HI
The product: Statement jewelry crafted in Hawaii from ocean plastic debris and 100 percent recycled precious metals.
Nurdle in the Rough Jewelry Founder Kat Crabill got the inspiration for her company by strolling the beaches of Hawaii. Instead of finding tranquility, she was perplexed by waves of plastic washing in with every tide. Instead of walking away, she dove right in, and found a way to transform the ugly ocean plastic into eye-catching statement jewelry.
Not only does Crabill remove the plastic from the coastlines before it ends up washing back in the ocean or ravaging the bellies of marine life, but she donates 10 percent of Nurdle in the Rough’s profits to an organization that organizes community cleanups. In short, she took an ugly problem and found a way to turn it into something beautiful.
Brian Boggs Chairmakers, Inc. – Asheville, NC
The product: Handmade furniture that preserves the tree’s integrity and lasts for generations.
In a mass-produced world, Brian Boggs still believed that a handmade chair crafted in 30 hours trumped 300 chairs zooming off of an assembly line in that same timeframe. That’s why he started Brian Boggs Chairmakers with his wife Melanie more than 30 years ago. His only assets then? Passion, grit and $50 worth of hand tools.
Now housed in a 10,000-square-foot facility with a team of craftsman working by his side, Boggs combines traditional woodworking with modern production to create everything from Appalachian post-and-rung chairs to contemporary tables, outdoor furniture and hospitality installations. Touted as one of the nation’s most celebrated furniture designers, Boggs gives back by offering an apprenticeship program that enables young artisans to earn a living wage while learning the art form from a recognized master.
Scratch and Peck Feeds – Burlington, WA
The product: Soy-free, certified organic, non-GMO project verified animal feed.
Diana Ambauen-Meade knew that, when it comes to raising chickens, the quality of egg output is only as good as the feed that goes in. So, when she couldn’t find organic feed for her backyard flock, she decided to start milling her own.
Today, family-owned and operated Scratch and Peck Feeds manufacturers and sells high-quality feed for chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats and pigs through retail and e-commerce. It employs 20 people, supports sustainable farming practices, and, has built a large, loyal, national customer base. In 2012, Scratch and Peck became the first non-GMO project verified animal feed manufacturer in North America and, in 2013, qualified as certified organic — making it the first product of its kind to hold both designations.
Funky Fresh Spring Rolls - Milwaukee, WI
The product: Handcrafted grilled gourmet spring rolls made with fresh, local ingredients.
The year was 2012, and Trueman McGee was at a crossroads. He was just laid off from his job as a construction worker and the heaviest he had ever been. He started working out, ate better, and after a 70-pound weight loss, became a personal trainer.
In a quest to make his favorite foods more healthy, he put the ingredients from his favorite sweet potato and black bean burrito into a spring roll and grilled it, instead of deep frying—and the taste was phenomenal. The concept for Funky Fresh Spring Rolls was born.
Today, McGee offers a wide variety of grilled rolls, which he sells through farmers markets, festivals and to loyal customers in the greater Milwaukee area. His dream is to see Funky Fresh Spring Rolls become a staple in grocery stores nationwide to show everyone that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring.
G. Joannou Cycle – Northvale, NJ
The product: A full line of high-quality bicycles to fit the needs of every rider.
G. Joannou Cycle opened its doors in 1937, just three years after Founder George Joannou immigrated to the United States from Greece. He had a passion for cycling and wanted everyone, of every age and skill level, to experience the thrill of cycling.
Today, Joannou’s daughter, Carine, carries on her father’s legacy as company president and CEO. Now the oldest U.S. bicycle brand under original family ownership, G. Joannou Cycle sells its mountain, street, recreational and youth bikes to riders in 55 countries around the world. A big supporter of community bike shops, the company’s mission is to help people live a fun, healthy lifestyle while reducing their carbon footprint.
Alumni Choice Award
The Konery – Brooklyn, NY
The product: Premium, hand-rolled waffle cones, bowls and fortune cookies in a variety of flavors.
For years, the ubiquitous waffle cone has been little more than a functional ice cream vessel. Although ice cream evolved, little about this bland-yet-lovable cone ever changed. That is, until cone aficionado Kristine Tonkonow founded The Konery.
Using fresh herbs, spices, artisanal ingredients and natural extracts, Tonkonow has transformed the mundane waffle cone into the star of the show. Flavors range from toasted coconut and red velvet to cinnamon brown sugar and birthday cake, as well as a mix of seasonal offerings. All products are dairy and preservative free, and sold exclusively through the wholesale distribution channel to ice cream shops, frozen yogurt shops and specialty retailers — with rave review from their customers.