Entrepreneurs prepare for Great Dames battle

Maria Hess Guest Columnist
Maria Hess
Guest Columnist

Women innovators hoping to secure big seed money and services will compete in the second Great Dames Remarkable Ideas Competition on April 11.

In the first competition, 41 women from seven states presented in a positive “Shark Tank” atmosphere, with the prize ultimately going to Delawarean Tanya Whye. Her company, Delaware Green Mattress Disassembling and Recycling, intends to dismantle used mattresses and box springs to recover nearly 95 percent of recyclables.

This year’s contest, already heating up after DEDO Director Bernice Whaley helped initiate an ideation session on March 14, promises to be a nail-biter. Five candidates chosen from dozens of applications will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges who will seek innovative ideas for heath and wellness solutions. Secretary of Health & Social Services Rita Landgraf will announce the winner on May 9.

Meaningful, written feedback will come from the Great Dames audience, all of whom will be invited to offer their contact information to each candidate for further interaction, support and mentorship. The same audience votes for the winning presentation, then competition judges count the ballots in the ensuing weeks to identify the winner.

Participants in the idea competition talked through ideas as a team. // Photo by Matt Gadzinski
Participants in the idea competition talked through ideas as a team. // Photo by Matt Gadzinski

“We’re trying to be a catalyst for women entrepreneurs to come together to collaborate and create new offerings and businesses from their innovations,” says Great Dames President Sharon Kelly Hake. “We’re also providing a platform for women to articulate their big ideas.”

Some 3,000 women globally have become engaged in Great Dames initiatives since it launched in 2009. More are signing up on a consistent basis, embracing the nonprofit’s one-on-one coaching, mentoring, high-impact interviewing training, personal branding workshops and inspirational speaker series. Its services are designed to help people achieve their leadership potential, explore their passions and honor their personal and professional commitments in meaningful ways. And since one of the Great Dames tenets is to encourage women to collaborate for better outcomes, the nonprofit connects women to communities of like-minded people and Delaware resources such as The National Association of Business Owners (NAWBO), the Women’s Business Center, and SCORE, a nonprofit that helps small businesses achieve their goals through education and mentorship.

But for now, all eyes (and wallets) are on the $25,000 prize. It will be anyone’s game.

Event information: Seats are available for the April 11 and May 9 events, both held at Pizza by Elizabeths in Greenville. For information or tickets, visit Great-Dames.com/events.


Maria Hess is a communications executive and media relations consultant at Wilmington University. She is editor-in-chief of WilmU Magazine.

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