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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017 1:00 am

Local firm national finalist

Owners headed to DC for InnovateHER competition

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Two northeast Indiana business executives are finalists in a national InnovateHER Business Challenge the U.S. Small Business Administration is sponsoring.

Marna Pacheco of Winona Lake and Susan Hickok of Fort Wayne and their company, CapeAble Sensory Products LLC, will compete for awards totaling $70,000 on Oct. 26 at the National Pitch Competition in Washington, D.C.

The SBA announced 10 finalists last week, according to a news release Monday from the Northeast Indiana Small Business Development Center.

The prize money is a gift from the Sara Blakely Foundation. Expenses for Pacheco and Hickok's trip are being paid by local sponsoring organizations.

CapeAble Sensory Products in Fort Wayne produces weighted blankets for better sleep, fashionable weighted wearables and sensory-enrichment tools. The company's products have a patent-pending design based on the “science behind the comfort” to help people with stress, autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, chemotherapy and other conditions or circumstances, according to its website.

“We were beyond thrilled and excited and very honored to have been chosen,” Pacheco said Monday afternoon. “We can't wait to head to D.C. and hopefully come back with a win for our community.”

CapeAble Sensory employs four full-time and several part-time workers, with plans to add more full-time.

In a statement launching the 2017 InnovateHER competition, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said women represent half of the U.S. workforce and control 80 percent of the nation's purchasing power. Women, however, still comprise less than 5 percent of venture capitalists.

“I decided to launch this annual competition two years ago so that we could begin to address that opportunity gap, because when women have an equal role in the marketplace and are able to chart their own paths, our nation as a whole is stronger and more globally competitive,” Contreras Sweet said.

The InnovateHER announcement comes after CapeAble was named the Outstanding Innovative Business of 2017 at the national SCORE Awards gala Sept. 14 in McLean, Virginia. 

CapeAble also won a state award May 3 from the Indiana Small Business Development Center for Economic Development and Growth through Entrepreneurship, based on the firm's initial success as a Hoosier business.