The Research Triangle Park Foundation recently kicked off a contest aimed at helping women-owned businesses take flight.
TrailblazHER is a contest meant to foster a strong community of women entrepreneurs and small business owners while providing one entrepreneur with free co-working space and other business services valued at more than $11,000, according to Anna Rhyne, programs manager at Research Triangle Park (RTP).
The contest is open to women-owned businesses or companies that focus on women. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Oct. 12.
“This past calendar year, we’ve taken a different approach to our programs in that we’ve really focused on the women in our region, both in terms of the women entrepreneurs in The Frontier, as well as leaders in our big park companies,” Rhyne explained. “There’s been a shift in how our companies have been thinking. There’s really been a lot of focus on women’s groups, on hiring more women and minorities, and for us, we thought that as the steward of the park, we need to be leading the way, too.”
For the winner of the contest, Rhyne said, having a space to launch a business or grow an idea won’t be an issue since the prize includes a year at The Frontier.
“We have this great office space and part of our mission is to help build the region’s economy and help smaller companies grow and interact with bigger companies in RTP,” Rhyne said. “The winner won’t have to worry about where to work; she can focus on the business and get to interact with the community we have at The Frontier.”
Women across all of North Carolina are encouraged to participate in the contest.
“We have a statewide mission. We’re located in the Triangle, but we serve the entire state of North Carolina,” Rhyne said.
The contest is broken into two main judging portions. A panel of judges, who also happen to be business owners affiliated with The Frontier, will judge a portion of the contest. Another portion of the contest is open to the public. Contestants will produce a video about why she should be the next TrailblazHER, and those will be subject to a public vote.
“We’re looking for someone who really buys into our mission of building community, contributing to the community and serving the community, someone who likes bouncing ideas off others and who wants to collaborate on projects and offer her expertise. That’s a big factor for us – somebody who really embodies that personality,” Rhyne said.
For Alisa Herr, founder of Unity Digital Agency and a judge in the contest, she’s looking for one thing above all else in the contestants – passion.
Herr, who launched her digital agency a year ago, is a tenant in The Frontier.
“When I started my business, I chose this place as my home base,” Herr said. “I’ve become friends with the staff and I feel like it’s just a really supportive place. They’ve been really helpful to me over the past year as I’ve been trying to get my business on its feet.”
Herr also knows the challenges facing an entrepreneur during a company’s infancy.
“I think I really learned just how important community is,” Herr said when asked about first-year challenges in growing her business. “I already felt that community was really important. I am a mom and when my kids were babies I felt how helpful it is to have a village. It was surprising to me – realizing that in starting a company it takes a village. You need support of other people who understand what you’re going through … how enjoyable it can be and how incredibly difficult it can be.
In addition to free office space, the prize also consists of donated consultation hours, Herr said.
“I think that the connections that are going to come out of that are going to be so invaluable in getting to know other businesses in the area,” she said. “It’s a built-in network that they’re going to be able to access and utilize.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named Alisa Herr's digital agency. It is called Unity Digital Agency.