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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 5:44 am | Fair 50º


UCSB Grad’s Company Wins First Place in SBA Competition

Uqora LLC, a women’s health company, whose co-founder and CEO, Jenna Ryan, is a 2012 UCSB graduate, was awarded first place at the national InnovateHER competition, sponsored by the Small Business Adminstration and Sarah Blakely Foundation.

Based in San Diego, Uqora is a women’s health company dedicated to UTI prevention, Ryan said. The company won $40,000 and was recognized Thursday for its innovative product that has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families.

The product gives women the defense they need against bacteria that causes urinary tract infections (UTIs), keeping them out of the doctor's office and off antibiotics, Ryan said.

"At Uqora, we've developed a UTI prevention drink mix. It’s shown to reduce UTI incidents by more than 75 percent, and it tastes like pink lemonade," Ryan said. "Uqora gives women a way to flush out UTI-causing bacteria when they’re most at risk."

"UTIs are incredibly common; actually the second most common infection in the United States," Ryan said.

"Despite the magnitude of the problem, the focus has always been disproportionately placed on treatment instead of prevention. We're out to change that," Ryan said.

This was the third annual Business Challenge sponsored by the SBA and Sarah Blakely Foundation for companies that impact the lives of women.

Ryan said Uqora was picked as one of 10 finalists out of 120 semi-finalists nationwide, and ultimately won the challenge based on the following criteria:

» Has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families (30 percent)
» Has the potential for commercialization (40 percent )
» Fills a need in the marketplace (30 percent)

Linda McMahon, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, said, "It is my pleasure to congratulate the top winners of the SBA's 2017 InnovateHER Business Challenge; entrepreneurs who have demonstrated extraordinary innovation and talent."

"Innovation is the heart of this competition, and I truly believe the creativity shown here today will fuel the problem-solving strategies of tomorrow," McMahon said.

"The finalists' products and services and technologies will have a positive impact on women and families," she said.

"Today we celebrate their success, but this is really only the beginning. We hope their experience in this competition will be a launchpad for future growth and opportunities," McMahon said.

The national finalists presented a live marketing pitch before a panel of judges to compete for the top three awards totaling $70,000 in prize money, provided by the Sarah Blakely Foundation.

Judges included Antonella Pianalto, president/CEO of the Association of Women's Business Centers; Cristina Morales Heaney, CEO of U.S. Safety Services and NAWBO National Board member; and Karen Kerrigan, president/CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council.

Each marketing pitch was evaluated by the judges on the business's strength in the following three areas: its measurable impact on the lives of women and families, its potential for commercialization, and its ability to fill a need in the marketplace.

Winner of the 2nd place award of $20,000 went to Jessica Dehn with Dino Drop-In, Bozeman, Mont. Dino Drop-In is designed as childcare built to fit the lifestyle of busy families and ever-changing work schedules.

The 3rd place award of $10,000 was won by Alexa Jones with TheraB Medical, of East Lansing, Mich.

TheraB Medical is a start-up working to launch its first product, SnugLit, a wearable, portable solution to infant jaundice that promotes maternal-infant bonding and breastfeeding while covering nearly twice the surface area of traditional methods.    

The 10 national finalists of the InnovateHER Challenge were selected through a rigorous nationwide competition held by local host organizations, and by an executive committee of SBA officials.

The support given by the SBA to this activity does not constitute an express or implied endorsement of any cosponsor's or participant's opinions, products, or services, the SBA said. For more information, contact [email protected].

The U.S. SBA was created in 1953, and since Jan. 13, 2012, has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, preserve free competitive enterprise and maintain and strengthen the overall economy of the nation.

The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses. The SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. Visit www.sba.gov.

— Cecelia Taylor for U.S. Small Business Administration.


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