THE 2018 McALLEN INNOVATION GRANT AWARD WINNERS

Dreamers & Inventors Win

2018 Innovation Grants

Once again, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce has indentified individuals with the perseverance and willingness to face the challenges necessary to win a coveted Innovation Grant.

Be Still, Little Tree, Be Still

Shawn Elliot Russell,

SER Publishing, author/musician

A children’s book inspiring courage and peace.

Five years ago, Shawn Elliot Russell, author/musician, was sinking into a black hole, withdrawing from the world, his anxiety disorders and phobias taking over his life. When the day came that a little voice urged him to end it all, he knew he’d hit bottom.

“That was the low point,” Russell acknowledged. “Three years, later I have a book and have started a publishing company.”

Writing Be Still, Little Tree, Be Still is Shawn’s way of helping others through their storms by sharing what he learned during his experience.

The McAllen Chamber Innovation Grant allows him to order more books and continue his objective to encourage others.

“Receiving the grant means I went through all of that for some reason, that there is a bigger purpose,” he said.

His free e-book is available online at www.bestilltree.com. Through the grant, Russell has reached out with his marketing tools, which are really tools to better the lives of others.

The hardback is available at both  McAllen’s Barnes & Noble stores.

EZ Stud Finder

Juan Guerrero, 

JLG Test Engineering, owner

Frustrated while trying to find a stud in the wall drove Juan Guerrero, owner of JLG  Test Engineering, to develop a stud finder anyone can use.

“Using an electronic stud finder was confusing,” Guerrero said. “I was determined it could be easier. I even had my six-year old granddaughter use my version and she was able to find a stud.” 

Using a ruler and magnets, the retired engineer and manager designed the EZ Stud Finder. 

“Basically all you do is run the ruler across the wall until you see one of the magnets wiggle, and that’s how you know you’ve found the stud,” Guerrero explained. “Simply put one of the magnetic markers there and you don’t even need to mark the wall.”

Taking advantage of the Chamber’s Idea Place, which took him step by step through his development process, Guerrero will be bringing his product to the market at $9.99 early in 2019.

For questions, contact Juan at juanlguerrerosr@yahoo.com.

Janktafied

Goodness

Lamar Jones, the Jankster, food developer, author, musician

Either You Do It or You Do It!

For the second time, an entrepreneur/musician/author/food developer Lamar Jones, has brought a vision to the table to win an Innovation Grant. 

With his award winning barbeque sauces, The Jank Gourmet BBQ sauce line, in 247 H-E-Bs, his line continues to grow as does the need to market, hence the grant.

“With the addition of the Dry Rub and Habanero sauce, I need to promote the new lines,” said Jones. “Also, my children’s picture book, The Adventures of Sir Jankster, was coming along, offering another avenue for me to talk about my products. I had an idea in my head that this brand be fun and family oriented and I wanted it to bring people together. That begins with the barbeque sauce. But I can’t talk about the barbeque sauce without talking about my music, when I talk about my story. I have to include everything because one doesn’t exist without the other.”

For more information, visit bbqjank.com.

Maximus Strength Trainer, Gilbert Moroles & Diana Gomez, sales & marketing directors

Lumina Direct Medical  Work Out to the Max!

With 30 plus years in health care, sales and marketing directors, Gilbert Moroles and Diana Gomez, developed Lumina Direct Medical for their children. The Maximus Strength Trainer, a therapy rehab product, was their first device.

After playing college football, Moroles utilized his skills to develop and train quarterbacks here in the Valley.

“Working with an athlete who had a metatarsal situation, we developed a new item to work simultaneously with the entire lower leg in one function,” Moroles said. “Beyond the clinician version, the ultimate success of the Trainer has been the opportunity to help individuals increase their speeds due to the development of the entire core leg.”

With its multiple functional usage up to 216 angles, and with no need for a hands-on assistant, the device has the ability to adddress certain dynamics in lower legs, which could not be addressed previously. 

Adding inventory for their international company will be key, and will now be possible thanks to the Innovation Grant.

For further info, visit  LuminaDirectMedical.com.

Rio Energy Bar

CEO, Irene Wazgowska, and Hooman Amid, co-founder

Feed Your Body with Sustainable Energy

Moving to the Valley in 2017, Feed Your Body CEO Irene Wazgowska and her co-founder husband Hooman Amid, found the local mind set different than in their recent Raleigh, North Carolina hometown. Encouraged by seeing the Valley’s attitude changing to a healthier life style, they forged ahead with their concept of savory protein crisps they had begun developing back in North Carolina. 

“It’s an alternative to the traditional sweet protein bars,” Wazgowska said.

“Our product is based on whole food ingredients and is an on-the-go snack or meal replacement, depending on your need.”

With flavors like onion and poppy, and coconut curry and chili pumpkin seed, the crisps are perfect for those who don’t want something sweet, or who are diabetic or just conscious of their food consumption.

“Coming from a bigger city, something we really value are the opportunities here in the Valley, specifically with the McAllen Chamber and other local resources, such as the Idea Place,” said Wazgowska. “This support factor is not as readily available elsewhere, so we are very grateful for it.”

Rio Energy Bars will be available locally in 2019.

Salsa Vinagreta

Rebecca Voore, owner/food developer

Think Outside the Chip!

It was a reluctant Rebecca Voore, food developer, who first took her non-tomato sauce based vinaigrette salsa to a local farmer’s market. However, as her salsa took off and she developed two other heat levels of flavors, she acknowledged to herself that she intended to go for the gold and create the best salsa on the market.

“It was input from my multi-cultured customers who inspired me to continue reconfiguring my products,” Voore said. “There’s no oil in my salsas and they need to be kept in the refrigerator. A quarter cup of my salsa is like one serving of vegetables per day.”

Enthusiastic feedback from her fans told her the salsa is used as everything from salad dressing, a topping for fish, and even for bruschetta.

“My salsa is non-GMO, low sugar, low salt, no preservatives, and all natural, which makes it vegan friendly,” she said.

Salsa Vinagreta will be available locally in 2019. Check out salsavinagretargv.com.