Grand Winners Unison and Happy Treats Awarded €15,000 in Empowering Women in Agrifood 2023 Program
On November 22, 2023, in Bucharest, the closing event of the 2023 edition of the Empowering Women in Agrifood accelerator took place. The ten participating entrepreneurs showcased their business ideas and highlighted the progress achieved during the six-month programme in front of the jury, press, and the audience on Pitch Day. Following the presentations, two winners emerged: Unison, a local producer of vegan products, claimed the first position and was awarded a €10,000 grant, while Happy Treats, a farm specializing in dog rewards made from insect protein, secured the second place and received a grant of €5,000.
From June to November, ten entrepreneurs in agribusiness benefited from mentorship, workshops, and dedicated meetings to refine their business ideas within the accelerator. Throughout their growth process, they received support from ten mentors—experts from various fields, successful entrepreneurs, and academic professionals. The learning journey reached its zenith with the entrepreneurs participating in Pitch Day on November 21, presenting their progress to the public for an opportunity to secure total funding of €5,000. Unison and Happy Treats successfully persuaded the jury members that they deserved to be the winners of the third edition held in Romania.
„We appreciated the involvement and proactivity of the mentors in collaborating with all participants, not just those to whom they were assigned. The participants of Empowering Women in Agrifood 2023 have demonstrated a remarkable spirit of collaboration during mentorship sessions, contributing to the formation of an active and dedicated community. We are inspired every time we work with such entrepreneurs, and it motivates us to consistently strive to build an extended community space where participants in our programs can find support, partners, and inspiration."
The innovative businesses awarded in Empowering Women in Agrifood 2023
Unison, the first prize-winning startup with a funding of €10,000, is a local producer of granola, nut spreads, raw bars, vegan mayonnaise, vegan alternatives to parmesan, and other gourmet treats. Their products are available within a network of over 50 partners nationwide and in 22 physical locations (stores, cafes, etc.). In addition to its current range of 14 products, the startup aims to develop new plant-based items free from additives and colorants.
“Empowering Women in Agrifood 2023 helped me find a balance between being a mother, raising a child, and the desire to develop a successful business. From my experience within the program, the things that helped me the most have been the consistent mentorship, dedicated workshops, and above all, the EWA community: we are a community of 10 women who have more than one child, and who want to do more than just take care of their families. A business can change many mindsets around us. Thank you, EWA! This award is a vote of confidence moving forward."
Happy Treats, the winner of the second prize and a grant of €5,000, is developing an insect farm that focuses on three main directions: the production of insect protein-based rewards for dogs (hypoallergenic options) and live insects for feeding farm birds. The third direction involves the utilization of by-products from the farm: the development of natural fertilizers for agricultural crops.
"For me, participating in Empowering Women in Agrifood 2023 meant much more than I expected. I have created many connections, including with my mentor from Cluj, who works at the university where I managed to conduct tests for the new products we want to develop, the natural fertilizers, and that helped me a lot. I found common ground with many participants, and with at least four of them, I laid the foundation for future collaborations. The feeling of a community where we support each other without feeling the pressure of competition is very valuable. Last but not least, I am grateful for all the workshops I went through, from which I had a lot to learn."
The jury that selected the two winners of EWA 2023 consisted of Vlad Craioveanu CEO and Co-founder, Impact Hub Bucharest; Simona Ionescu, Product Manager Retail Division, Raiffeisen Bank Romania, and Gabriela Ciripială, Executive Director, Ameropa Foundation Romania. The selection criteria took into account parameters such as the proposed solution, the addressed issue, market differentiators, business model, team, funding needs, and the potential to innovate and generate social, environmental, and economic impact in the local agrifood industry.
"Successful entrepreneurial initiatives are crucial for Romania across all sectors, particularly in agriculture, a domain with vast potential. We are pleased to find bold ideas and a great deal of creativity among the female entrepreneurs who participated in the Empowering Women in Agrifood accelerator— an initiative that we are supporting with great enthusiasm starting this year," commented Andreea Porojan, Sustainability & ESG Manager at Raiffeisen Bank Romania.
The advantages tailored for EWA participants
Over the six months of the accelerator, the 10 participants went through 135 hours of mentoring and workshops on specific topics such as financial management, pitching, communication & marketing, sales, as well as community meetings. The year concludes with an European agrifood summit organized by EIT Food on December 1 in Vilnius, Lithuania, bringing together EWA participants from all 11 European countries where the accelerator is held.
Throughout this intensive learning process, they benefited from the continuous support of the project manager, Alexandra Cîrtog, from Impact Hub Bucharest, as well as from the 10 mentors who joined Empowering Women in Agrifood 2023: Raluca Ioana Barbu - Co-Owner, Highclere Consulting, Bianca Chișulescu - SME Financial Instruments Expert, Raiffeisen Bank Romania, Cosmina Dinu - Co-Founder, ROMO & Ferma de păsări pășunate, Tudor Iacob - Plant Based Founder, Unison Goodies, Mădălina Neagu - Co-Founder, We For Real, Adnana Popa - Co-Founder, Velocità, Indira Abdulvoap - Business Consultant, Giorgiana Popescu - Regional HR Director, ADM Romania, Andreea Porojan - Sustainability & ESG Manager Raiffeisen Bank Romania and Zorița Diaconeasa - Associate Professor, Faculty of Food Science and Technology, University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca.
EWA unites 110 female entrepreneurs at the European level
In 2023, the third edition of Empowering Women in Agrifood (EWA) in Romania brought together 110 female entrepreneurs at the European level. The primary objective of the programme is to unleash local innovation potential in the agri-food industry, offering direct support to female entrepreneurs in a field traditionally dominated by men.
EWA 2023 is developed by EIT Food and involves a total of 110 women entrepreneurs from 11 European countries: Estonia, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine. The program is implemented in Romania by Impact Hub Bucharest and supported by Raiffeisen Bank Romania.
Since 2021, Impact Hub Bucharest has officially represented EIT Food in Romania as the EIT Food Hub. It serves as a contact point for local representatives in the agri-food sector, playing a crucial role in supporting innovators and entrepreneurs while facilitating the development of this strategic industry.
For further details about the 2023 edition of Empowering Women in Agrifood, you can visit the official programme page:
About Impact Hub Bucharest
Impact Hub Bucharest is the dynamic space where professionals and entrepreneurs work to develop business projects and initiatives. Since 2012, Impact Hub Bucharest is the first coworking space in Romania, with a community of more than 3,000 members in Bucharest, while globally the organization is present in over 100 locations in over 50 countries. Impact Hub Bucharest’s mission is to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem by offering startup acceleration programs and direct funding, as well as the largest online entrepreneurial education platform in Romania – Startarium.