Ford Fund and 1863 Ventures Award $50,000 to HI - HERImpact Pitch Competition Winners

WASHINGTON--()--Ford Motor Company Fund and 1863 Ventures announced the winners of the Sept. 11 HI - HERImpact DC Pitch Competition, held last night as part of DC Startup Week 2019. A total of $50,000 in cash prizes and in-kind support was awarded last night to three female social entrepreneurs to help them build and scale their enterprises.

The new HI – HERImpact DC winners are:

  • First Place: Stephanie Cummings, Please Assist Me – Awarded $25,000 (Growth Stage)
  • Second Place: Lina Zdruli, Dafero – Awarded $20,000 (Growth Stage)
  • Audience Choice: LaQuida Chancey, Smalltimore Homes – Awarded $5,000 (Early Stage)

“Ford Fund is elated to award first place to Stephanie Cummings from Please Assist Me, whose company aims to make home assistant services more accessible and affordable for working professionals trying to balance household tasks with busy lives,” said Yisel Cabrera, Community Relations Manager for Ford Motor Company Fund. “We believe that when you invest in a woman, you are not only improving her life, but the lives of her family and the community around them.”

Second place winner, Lina Zdruli from Dafero, is crafting delicious, sugar-free sweets that those with dietary restrictions can enjoy while employing vulnerable women in communities, including refugee women and former trafficking victims. The audience choice winner, LaQuida Chancey from Smalltimore Homes, is trying to alleviate homelessness by creating more affordable housing through micro shelters and tiny homes.

“It is an honor to be able to shine a spotlight on these amazing women entrepreneurs who prove that social good and capital investment are not fundamentally at odds,” said Melissa Bradley, managing partner of 1863 Ventures, “We’re proud to help contribute to a nurturing ecosystem here in DC for women entrepreneurs committed to making a difference.”

For the pitch competition, ten finalists were selected out of more than 170 applicants to compete at DC Startup Week 2019. They were chosen based on the following criteria: the social enterprise must exist to solve a real community problem, have a business model that will ultimately be sustainable, and focus on a product or service people will pay for. Judges included Alyssa Gill of NextGen Venture Partners, Aurelia Flores of Athena Digital Media Group, and Pamela Alexander of Ford Fund.

HI - HERImpact DC has awarded $100,000 so far in 2019, and the overall initiative has awarded $200,000 since its inception in 2018. Winners and event leadership are available for interviews. Media can request interviews through Jenny Wang: or 814-506-4597.


About HI - HERImpact DC
HI - HERImpact DC is a joint initiative between the Ford Motor Company Fund and 1863 Ventures to help female social entrepreneurs in the DMV area scale their enterprises in order to increase their impact and long-term sustainability. HERImpact DC offers educational opportunities, technical assistance, mentoring, coaching, and financial resources, and its Entrepreneurship Summits and Pitch Competitions are designed to build community and provide investment in early and growth stage companies in the region. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Ford Motor Company Fund
As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, Ford Fund’s mission is to strengthen communities and help make people’s lives better. Working with dealers and nonprofit partners in more than 60 countries, Ford Fund provides access to opportunities and resources that help people reach their full potential. Since 1949, Ford Fund has invested more than $2 billion in programs that support education, promote safe driving, enrich community life and encourage employee volunteering. For more information, visit or join us at @FordFund on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About 1863 Ventures
1863 Ventures accelerates new majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth by bridging entrepreneurship and racial equity. Our vision is to create $100B of new wealth and economic power for and by the new majority. Our work provides emerging entrepreneurs with access to money, markets and management training. We will achieve our vision through increased profitability, job creation and access to capital for our members.


Jenny Wang

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Ford Fund and 1863 Ventures award $50,000 to HI - HERImpact Pitch Competition winners.

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