2018 McAllen Chamber Innovation Grant Winners


For 11 years the McAllen Chamber of Commerce has awarded the Chamber’s Innovation Grant. The Innovation Grant Awards program is designed to help inventors and entrepreneurs move their ideas one step closer to the marketplace. This program has grown every year and there are two key traits that have emerged as we engage these successful entrepreneurs. Every one of these winners exhibits two key traits that seem fundamental to their success.

First, winners ask the “why” question. “Why does something have to be this way?” The successful entrepreneur never lets go of the “why.” They think about it, they research it, and they ask lots of questions concerning, “why?”

Second, the successful entrepreneur never quits. It sounds simple, but it is an attitude that is the make or break for success. It does not matter how many times they are told no, the successful entrepreneur just keeps going. All the winners of the Chamber’s Innovation Grant program can tell you that they have been told “no” a thousand times. But they never stopped believing in their idea or their solution to a burning problem.

I am proud to announce the Chamber’s Innovation Grant Winners for 2018:

EZ Stud Finder

Juan Guerrero has come up with a very simple and inexpensive device that can find studs in your walls, without your having to buy the expensive equipment you see at local hardware stores. Juan’s burning “why” question: “Why does a stud finder device have to be so costly and hard to use?”

Be Still, Little Tree, Be Still

Shawn Elliot Russell’s book helps kids learn to deal with anxiety and fear. The cool thing Shawn has done is to develop a whole program and merchandise to go with the book. Shawn is using his own personal story of overcoming anxiety and panics attacks to help kids learn to deal with anxiety. Shawn will tell you that he has been told “no” more than 300 times, but he has never given up on his book.

Jankafied Goodness

Lamar Jones has won the Innovation Grant before and now has won it a second time with the expansion of his original BBQ sauce line to include a meat rub and a Habanero BBQ sauce. Lamar’s story has been inspirational for all the “food folks” trying to get on the shelves at major grocery stores.

Lumina Direct Medical

Gilbert Moroles has invented a device that can assist and speed the recovery of lower leg muscles. It is a device that provides 360-degree tension that helps provide a better strengthening process than what is currently out in the market. Gilbert had one of the most finely developed prototypes that I have seen in ten years.

Rio Energy Bar

Irene Wazgowska and Hooman Amid developed a savory (not sweet) cracker/wafer that has 15 grams of protein and is less than 200 calories per serving.  It is gluten-free and keto friendly. Their burning “why” question: “Why do energy bars have to be so sweet and contain so many calories?”

Salsa Vinagreta

Rebecca Voore has developed a salsa fresca with a vinaigrette fusion of wine and jalapenos. The salsa is not tomato-based and provides for a variety of uses for foods and cooking. This may be our next H-E-B Primo Pick winner.

All six winners have some cool ideas. Could you be next?