Inaugural "Stacy's Rise Project" Unveils Five Finalists

July 24, 2019

PLANO, Texas, July 24, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Since May, more than 400 businesswomen in the food and beverage industry have been sharing their creative ideas and business aspirations as applicants of the inaugural Stacy's Rise Project, all hoping to become the next "Stacy," the trailblazing entrepreneur Stacy Madison who has become a household name thanks to Stacy's Pita Chips.

In its mission to help women rise, the Stacy's Rise Project today announced that group has been narrowed down to five finalists eligible for its grand prize of $100,000 (to be awarded in November), all of whom will immediately receive a $20,000 grant and partake in a three-month executive mentorship program to advance their business plan.

Padma Lakshmi – entrepreneur, food expert, actress, and best-selling author – helped select the five finalists, including:

  • Hannah Dehradunwala, New York City, N.Y., who built Transfernation as the first technology-based, on-demand food rescue service, allowing food providers to request pickups for untouched extra food to be taken to local homeless shelters or food banks.
  • Pilar Gonzalez, Mission, Texas, who started Habibi Gourmet in her home kitchen to create preservative-free dips in a variety of flavors and textures.
  • Kate Holby, Upper Black Eddy, Pa., whose Ajiri Tea employs women in western Kenya to make the packaging for the tea and coffee boxes and donates 100 percent of the profits to the Ajiri Foundation to pay school fees for orphans. The tea is handpicked on small-scale farms in western Kenya.
  • Hannah Hong, Los Angeles, Calif., who founded Hakuna Brands, a plant-based line of frozen desserts featuring real fruit rather than refined sugar.
  • Michele Liddle, Victor, N.Y., who started Perfect Granola on the foundation of giving back, hiring at-risk youth and sharing five percent of profits with homeless shelters, outreach centers and food banks.

"Each of the finalists have seamlessly blended innovation, business acumen and a commitment to philanthropy, and the results are highly-successful enterprises poised for even more greatness," said Lakshmi. "By championing these five women, we are opening up the dialogue to the larger systemic issue surrounding the funding gap for female-founded businesses in hopes that we can help to create parity and a more inclusive environment for business owners."

The judging panel also included Frito-Lay and Stacy's brand executives; Sean Kelly, co-founder and CEO of SnackNation; and Elizabeth Gore, president and chairwoman of Alice, the AI-based virtual advisor for female entrepreneurs. As part of the selection process, the panel weighed the businesses' creativity and originality, scalability and strategic fit within PepsiCo and their larger mission of Sustainability and Diversity efforts.

"At Frito-Lay, we have a unique opportunity to create more opportunities for women both inside and outside our organization when we connect the power of a brand like Stacy's and expertise of our people with female innovators who are driving the future of the food and beverage industry," said Ciara Dilley, vice president of marketing, Frito-Lay North America. "It was incredibly inspiring to see the passion, creativity and strategic thought put into the hundreds of submissions we received, which made it very challenging to select these five finalists who we feel ultimately represent the depth and quality of not just our Stacy's Rise applicants, but thousands more women whose ideas and aptitude deserve investors' consideration."   

Over the next three months, the five finalists will be paired with two dedicated Frito-Lay mentors and connected with subject matter experts in digital media, innovation and business strategy to advise them on their business plan before a formal presentation helps determine the $100,000grand prize winner, to be announced by Lakshmi on November 19, Women's Entrepreneurship Day. Join the finalists and their mentors on their Stacy's Rise journey by following #RiseProject2019 on social media. For more information on the five finalists and the Stacy's Rise Project, visit

About Stacy's® Snacks Stacy's Snacks is one of the many brands that make up Frito-Lay North America, the $15 billion convenient foods division of PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ: PEP), which is headquartered in Purchase, NY. Learn more about Frito-Lay at the corporate website,, the Snack Chat blog, and on Twitter

About PepsiCo  PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $64 billion in net revenue in 2018, driven by a complementary food and beverage portfolio that includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana. PepsiCo's product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

At the heart of PepsiCo is Performance with Purpose – our fundamental belief that the success of our company is inextricably linked to the sustainability of the world around us. We believe that continuously improving the products we sell, operating responsibly to protect our planet and empowering people around the world enable PepsiCo to run a successful global company that creates long-term value for society and our shareholders. For more information, visit

About Alice Founded by Carolyn Rodz and Elizabeth Gore, Alice is a free website that helps business owners find the right path to start and grow their companies by matching them with resources and opportunities. As a social enterprise, Alice supports equal access and opportunity for all business owners, no matter where they come from or who they know.

About Padma Lakshmi Emmy-nominated Padma Lakshmi is internationally known as a food expert, model, actress and best-selling author, as well as the recipient of the 2016 NECO Ellis Island Medal of Honor and Variety's 2018 Karma award. Lakshmi serves as host and an executive producer of Bravo's Emmy award-winning Top Chef, which recently wrapped its 16th season.

Lakshmi established herself as a food expert early in her career, having hosted two successful cooking shows and writing the best-selling Easy Exotic, which won the "Best First Book" award at the 1999 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Lakshmi followed this success with the publication of her second cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet. In 2016, she released her food memoir, The New York Times best-selling Love, Loss and What We Ate, which also won "Best Lifestyle, Body & Soul" at the 2017 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, followed by The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs. In Spring of 2018, Padma collaborated with MAC Cosmetics for a worldwide capsule collection called #MACPadma.

In 2017, Lakshmi became an ambassador for the ACLU, focusing on women's reproductive health and immigration issues. Padma also serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme. She is also co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America, and serves as a Visiting Scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).



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