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McAllen Chamber Offers Up Wishes Granted

Chamber’s Innovation Grants help entrepreneurs launch ideas, businesses.

By Kevin Litwin on April 23, 2020

McAllen TX
McAllen / David Norec

For the past 12 years, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce has organized an annual Innovation Grant Awards competition designed to help inventors and entrepreneurs move their ideas one step closer to the marketplace.

A total of six to eight fledgling companies are named winners each year and earn prize money grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 apiece.

The program’s goal is to encourage business creation in the McAllen area, with a panel of judges looking for new ideas or other intellectual properties that can be protected through a patent or copyright. Six winners were crowned at the Innovation Grant competition in October 2019.

“There is an application process, and applicants eventually face a panel of judges and must put together a 10-minute oral presentation followed by 10 minutes of Q&A,†says McAllen Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Business Development and Startups Jorge Sanchez. “The judges decide how much to award the strongest and most potentially viable ideas, with a limit of $10,000 per individual or team.”

Many Resources for Startups & Innovators

Besides Innovation Grants, the McAllen Chamber is involved with startup programs such as the McAllen Business Plan Competition, 1 Million Cups, IdeaPlace, Latina Hope and two entrepreneur incubator spaces – TechPlace and Third Place on the Second Floor, which is located in the McAllen Creative Incubator building on North Main Street.

“If you have a new idea or startup,  come talk to us. We are doing some exciting things,†Sanchez says. “We have awarded many Innovation Grants and have seen quite a few startup companies advance and evolve into strong businesses.”

McAllen, TX is Growing with Opportunity

Sanchez points out that one of the past Innovation Grant winners was Lamar Jones, who, back in 2014, had an idea for creating a barbecue sauce.

“We told Lamar that there is much competition in the barbecue sauce game, but he moved forward and persevered, going through the Innovation Grant competition and winning one,†Sanchez says. “Today, his The Jank Original Gourmet BBQ Sauce is sold in 247 H.E.B. supermarkets throughout Texas, and he recently hit $1 million in sales. In addition, The Jank has become the official barbecue sauce of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

McAllen TX
McAllen / Nathan Lambrecht

More Than $4.5 Million

The McAllen Chamber to date has worked with more than 160 startups and has assisted in securing 16 patents, nine trademarks and seven copyright protection filings. Over the past five years, young McAllen companies have generated more than $4.5 million in revenue.

“The Innovation Grant funds can be used for patent searches, patent filings, trademark filings, prototype development, market feasibility, pre-launch activities and much more,†Sanchez says. “Another good aspect of the competition is that participation is free.”

For more information on the Innovation Grant Awards competition, please visit.  

McAllen TX
McAllen / David Norec

Here are the six 2019 Innovation Grant winners:

1. Edison Foods, Rosa Maria Delgado – $5,000

Through its secret formula using natural ingredients, this company bakes bread that fights epidemic diseases related to obesity.

2. The Adventures of Exo and Cy, David Ceron – $2,500

An innovative children’s book that fights obesity and diabetes through a series of exercises that kids must do in order to continue reading.

3. Ya’ax Vegan Foods, Maria Jose Serrano – $2,500

This startup features multiple vegan foods that are not easily found in the market, including vegan mayo, chocolate hazelnut spreads, ranch and Italian dressings, and pizza crusts.

4. Lickstrips, Freddie Gaitan – $10,000

These are prepackaged, edible flavor strips that can be easily added to drinks, fruits, or sodas.

5. Lumina Direct Medical, Gilbert Moroles – $10,000

A PVC chair for infection control, this medical device will reduce threats of infection for its users. It can support patients up to 450 pounds.

6. Ammo Fire Starters, LLC, Cesar Gonzalez Jr. – $5,000

Made from a blend of waxes and wood and shaped like a grenade, this item is a new, safe, and reliable product to get any fire started.

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