News Release


Release Date:  March 1, 2015  Contact: Jennifer Gabler,

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The Refinery To Host InnovatorHER Business Challenge


WESTPORT, CT – The Refinery ( has announced that it has been selected by The Small Business Administration (SBA) to be one of approximately twenty sites nationwide to host a regional competition for the InnovateHER Business Challenge. The SBA is using this competition to locate and support entrepreneurs that create products or services that have a measureable impact on the lives of women and families.  Companies can be led by women or men.  The SBA is partnering with Microsoft to launch this competition, and finalists will be competing for cash prizes of up to $30,000.

As a host organization, The Refinery will have an open call for applications beginning March 1, 2015.  Five finalists will be selected to pitch to a panel of judges on Wednesday, March 25th from 6pm to 10pm at Westport Town Hall.  One winner will be selected by the judges to be the local winner.  The SBA will then identify no more than ten finalists nationally who will have the opportunity to pitch to a panel of judges in Washington, DC and compete for up to $30,000 in prize money during National Small Business Week, May 4-8, 2015.  Competition rules and other guidelines are available at

All community members are invited to attend the pitch night competition at Westport Town Hall on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 from 6pm to 10pm.

To submit an application, please visit and go to the InnovateHER page which describes how to submit an application to participate in the local pitch night competition in Westport.  These applications are due by March 15th for the local competition, with the five finalists notified by March 20th.   Information, rules and guidelines are also available at

More on The Refinery

The Refinery ( is an accelerator for women led businesses based in Westport, CT.  The Refinery’s trademark program is a twelve week structured, content based and mentor driven program for companies that have launched a product or service.  Overall goals include: accelerating the growth of early stage ventures resulting in job creation and viable investments, engaging the local intellectual and financial capital in the growth of new businesses, serving the underserved market of women-led companies and creating a reusable model and platform for other communities.

The Refinery ran a Fall 2014 class with nine companies participating and is currently running a Winter 2015 class with ten companies participating.  Industries represented include: digital ventures, ed tech, food, wearable tech and medical device, among others.  Over sixty mentors with expertise in areas critical to the growth of startup companies were involved in guiding the participant companies through the program. 

The accelerator is focused on the underserved market of women-led companies, which is the fastest growing business startup segment, with three of five new businesses being started by women, according to Belle Capital LLC.

The Refinery was awarded grants from both The US Small Business Administration and CT Next.  Sponsors have also included: The Westport Library, IMLS, The Westport Sunrise Rotary, Stamford Innovation Center and CT Next.

The Refinery will be running a week long boot camp in Summer 2015 for earlier stage ventures and another twelve week program starting in September 2015.   Information and applications are available on The Refinery’s website,