As a brand that consistently celebrates strong females and women making a difference, ELLE’s Impact Awards—held the day before International Women’s Day—felt like a living, breathing mission statement. For its fourth annual ceremony, the title paired with beloved fashion brand Banana Republic and INCO, a global accelerator for eco-minded startups, to spotlight four entrepreneurs before announcing who would take home top honors. The winner will then compete in INCO’s global competition in Paris.
“Supporting women entrepreneurs is the morally right thing to do—and it’s the smart thing to do,” Nicolas Hazard, INCO President and Founder, said by a way of introduction.
“Today we honor women as innovators, each with remarkable stories,” said ELLE Editor-in-Chief Nina Garcia as she welcomed guests. “If the future’s in their hands, we’re in great shape.”
“We are proud to lead a culture of empowerment of women and be a sponsor of the ELLE Impact Award,” said Mary Alderete, Banana Republic Chief Marketing Officer. “Today’s nominees exemplify Banana Republic’s positioning of living a life with no boundaries. They are connected to the world in a profound way as innovative entrepreneurs focused on sustainability to protect the planet for future generations.”
In a surprise twist, energy- and environment-focused nominee Steph Speirs won both The Impact Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the Banana Republic No Boundaries Award (presented by model Flaviana Matata, founder of a Tanzania-based organization dedicated to girls’ education).
The No Boundaries Award recognizes change makers and rule breakers, and Speirs’ work democratizing access to clean energy exemplifies just that. Including a $10,000 prize, the award was inspired by the brand’s commitment to supporting the women creating their clothes in developing countries around the globe via its P.A.C.E. program. Currently overseen by Gail Gershon, Senior Director of the Gap Foundation for Banana Republic, the initiative has served over 200,000 women in 16 countries since its founding in 2007.
Speaking about the four nominees, whose innovative companies and missions are listed below, Gershon didn’t mince words.
“They’re curious—well, let’s just say it. They’re brilliant.”
Below, a look at each of the nominees and the innovative, mission-driven companies they created.
Entrepreneur: Lisa Dyson
Built upon early NASA research examining how astronauts could turn waste into useable products, Kiverdi converts carbon dioxide into biofertilizers and animal feed.
Company: Uncharted Power
Entrepreneur: Jessica O. Matthews
By creating renewable energy microgrids from the ground-up, Unchartered Power brings clean and low-cost energy to areas of the world that need it most.
Entrepreneur: Steph Spiers
Spiers’ award-winning company seeks to make it easier for the average American household to opt for solar power by organizing “community solar” farms.
Entrepreneur: Amanda Weeks
Combatting the issue with traditional landfills, Industrial/Organic focuses on waste management to turn food waste into safer chemicals like fertilizers and household cleaning products.