Meet the Winners of the 2015 Project Grow Challenge


Entrepreneur and Canon's MAXIFY brand of printers challenged small-business owners to demonstrate how winning up to $25,000 would help them expand. Passionate responses confirmed not only entrepreneurs' innovative visions for growth, but also their appreciation of the support that Canon MAXIFY gives to the small-business community. Join us in celebrating the spirit and determination of all three Project Grow winners.

Steve Kaufman, CEO

Quikiks, Developing Hands-Free Footwear

After watching his son struggle with a scoliosis brace that prevented him from putting on his shoes, Steve Kaufman created Quikiks. These fully enclosed and supportive shoes can be put on and taken off without bending over or using hands. "Footwear is capital-intensive," says Kaufman. "A lot of tooling, molds and so forth." And because footwear has to be available in m,ultiple sizes, he has to produce 68 variations of each style. He confesses that this made securing financing a challenge-which makes his Project Grow award even more meaningful.

Kaufman will use his award to invest in product improvements as well as education and marketing efforts. The best way to evangelize Quikiks, he says, is to reach out to healthcare providers that work with the elderly and individuals with limited mobility. Part of his winnings will go to secure places at national healthcare tradeshows, where he'll educate providers and enlist them as resellers-growing his business and giving hands-free help to patients nationwide.

Catharine Arnston

Founder & CEO ENERGYbits Algae As a Change Agent

Starting a business is hard enough, but Catharine Arnston is building an entire industry-around algae. "I have always seen entrepreneurship as the best way to be an agent of change," says Arnston-and it's a positive change she's hoping to create with her plant-based nutrition solution. "It's not only the healthiest food in the world for us," she says, "but algae's eco-friendly sustainability as a crop makes it healthy for the planet as well."

After five years of building an online customer base of endurance athletes, Arnston is ready to repackage her ENERGYbits across retail channels. Her Project Grow money will help cover the costs of expanding her reach. "Now that we've got the working capital to do it," she says, "we're ready."

Jessica Castelli

Founder & CEO Connecting Businesses via Pivot

A year after founding, a site that connects businesses offering kid-centered activities and events with parents, Jessica Castelli is pivoting to further meet her customers' needs. She plans to launch a second service,, to connect locations and entertainers to party-planning parents.

The Project Grow prize money will cover promotion expenses, including social media monitoring, pay-per-click advertising, and entry into tradeshows, where Castelli can publicize both of her services. "There are so many child- and baby-oriented tradeshows in the Long Island area," she says. "This will help us connect to both businesses and parents."