Can You Use Some Money, Mom?

You may have been offered a penny for your thoughts, but what would you say to someone who is willing to plunk down a cool $15,000 for them? That’s what Huggies is offering to moms who come out on top in its MomInspired grant program. Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies brand, long known for its quality baby and child products, also lends a helping hand to moms with bright ideas.

The Huggies MomInspired Grant, seed money of $15,000, is awarded annually to moms who want to move an inspired idea from the drawing board into the marketplace. But Huggies doesn’t stop there: it also provides real support for the entrepreneur. Kelly Stephenson, a senior brand director at Huggies notes: “Over the past 3 years, we have awarded 32 entrepreneurial women $15,000 in grant money to help explore and grow their unique baby and child care ideas or products. It has been exciting to get to know each one of these women and see how their businesses grow after becoming part of the larger Huggies MomInspired family. These ladies each have products or solutions that solve an unmet need in the parenting and childcare space. They now have the rare opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and push one another to succeed.”

The Huggies grant is awarded to ideas that are creative, useful, and have marketing power. Past winners include companies like Linda M. Varga’s Solar Eclipz (ezShade) and Allyson Phillips’s Tilty Cup.

Solar Eclipz Saves Your Skin

Supermom of two and a lawyer by day, Varga was awarded the grant money for her portable sun shade. “It is so tough being a start-up business because you have more than your fair share of difficult days filled with setbacks and doubt. Everyone starts off thinking ‘this is a million dollar idea’, ‘this is going to be easy’, ‘I can do this, no problem’, but then the setbacks and doubt sneak in. Winning the Huggies’ grant was just the affirmation that I needed to push through those difficult days. I have gotten a lot of miles out of that affirmation,” notes Varga.

The ezShade was the result of years of research started when Varga was out at her children’s games, braving the relentless sun of the season. Like many families, she understood that overexposure to the damaging rays of the sun increases the risk of skin cancer. “While I was researching shade structures, I discovered that not all shade is created equal… up to 84% of UV rays found in direct sun reflect under your basic umbrella and canopy. You can actually get burned while you are sitting in the shade!”

The ezShade is a real problem-solver for busy families, just what the Huggies panel was looking for. Not only is it lightweight and portable, but it blocks over 99% UVA/UVB rays and can attach to pretty much any umbrella or canopy.

The confidence of a major market player like Huggies speaks volumes about Varga and her product:

Going Full Tilt with Tilty Cups

The MomInspired program is about more than just showering the winners with much-needed funding, as Allyson Philips, the inventor of the Tilty Cup can attest: “One of the best parts of the Huggies program is being able to give advice and support for launching their companies.”

As the busy mother of two and the VP of marketing for her family’s company, Philips knew she was on to something great when she solved her own toddler’s issue with the sippy cup. Her daughter would sometimes have problems trying to get all of the milk out of the container. With some adjustment, Philips managed to jerry-rig her own version of a sippy cup that allowed all of the cup’s contents to come out with little difficulty.

But moving the product from her mind into the marketplace was another story — getting the MomInspired grant was more than Philips hoped for. “Great things have come from winning the contest. I have made invaluable connections with the team at Huggies and all of the amazing moms. Besides the grant money, I have received advice, press coverage, and amazing friendships. There are still great things coming from the program 3 years later,” notes Philips.

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Calling All MomPreneurs!

Getting a shot at the Huggies grant is easier than you would think. It basically involves reviewing the rules, getting your information together, and filling out an application. Huggies also provides aid for applying first-timers. The site boasts several informative links that go to Winmark Business Solutions, the site that provides information for and supports small businesses. The articles there include valuable insight on how to write your business plan or understand product development.

What are Huggies judges looking for in a winning product? A big chunk of the requirements focuses on creativity and originality — 50%. Next up, the judges are on the lookout for something that really meets a need that growing families have; the product idea should help families save time and hassle in their daily lives. Judges also examine the viability of the idea; they take a look at what is likely to sell in today’s tough marketplace. They also see how far along the product is in its development and check to see that the applicant meets all of the eligibility guidelines. (These guidelines include being a US resident as well as 21 and over.) Past applicants are welcome to resubmit their ideas, as are prior winners (as long as they are submitting an application for a new product idea).

Applicants have until July 31, 2013, to submit their proposals to the program:

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