Company News

Purpose Wins FedEx Grant, Preps for YBI ‘Shark Tank’

HERMITAGE, Pa. – With a bronze-level finish in a national competition sponsored by FedEx under their belts, the co-founders of Purpose: The Therapeutic Subscription Box LLC have two more competitions awaiting them, including this week’s Youngstown Business Incubator “Shark Tank” contest.

Purpose, founded last year by occupational therapy assistants Ali Izzo and Holly Masters, was awarded a $15,000 grant and $1,000 in printing and other marketing opportunities through FedEx’s seventh annual Small Business Grant Contest.   

The company is one of 10 Bronze-level winners in the FedEx competition, which garnered more than 13,000 entries from candidates across the United States.

Purpose makes boxes with items to help seniors maintain cognition and fine-motor skills, along with other items like photographs and personalized notes from the sender. Izzo and Masters created the company as part of their coursework at Penn State University Shenango Campus. It ships to customers in 14 states, Masters said. 

One of the top priorities for the winnings will be improving Purpose’s website, which the co-CEOs said is functional but not scalable. On the list of  improvements they want to make is to change its survey to gather more information about the boxes’ recipients for better personalization, as well as an improved checkout process.

Izzo and Masters heard about the competition a year ago when they were still forming their company, but were ineligible to enter because they had not yet formed their limited liability corporation, Izzo recalled.  

“We kept it in the back of our minds,” Masters said. 

When this year’s competition opened, the entrepreneurs filled out the online application and submitted a short video, Izzo said. The public was invited to vote on the entries, and they were notified April 15 that they made the top 100. 

“After that, we had to send in another short video about how we use our passion for what we do to start our business,” she said.

FedEx representatives chose Purpose as a bronze winner because its mission of giving back to seniors was admirable and something not seen in previous contests, said Gretchen Mathis of FedEx public relations. 

“[Purpose] was founded with the vision of creating gift boxes for the senior population to inspire positivity and enhance quality of life through personalized products that encourage independence and improve overall health and well-being,” she said. “Seniors may experience depression due to a lack of visitors and social interaction and the founders at Purpose wanted to change that. And they are, one specialty gift box at a time.”

FedEx supports global entrepreneurship as one of its five pillars of corporate social responsibility, Mathis continued. In the United States, small businesses create up to 80% of net new jobs annually, but only 40% of companies make it to the six-year mark. In many cases, small business owners are unable to build, sustain or grow their company due to lack of experience, information, funding or other resources

“We are dedicated to growing global entrepreneurship by providing aspiring entrepreneurs with both the tools and the means they need to launch or grow their business,” she said.

The Purpose co-CEOs were notified Friday about their placing in the FedEx competition, Masters said. 

“It’s been very hard to keep it a secret,” she said. It is “really amazing” to know Purpose placed out of “a lot of other amazing businesses.”

On Friday, Purpose will be one of 11 companies competing for prizes of $6,000, $3,000 and $1,000 at the YBI Shark Tank competition at The Lake Club. Purpose also is one of six companies that were selected to compete on another Shark Tank-type show, The Investment, which was taped April 6.

The show invited Penn State students and recent graduates to compete for money. Purpose was chosen from among the 25 entries, and the only entry not from the Penn State main campus, Izzo said. 

The Investment will be broadcast on public television May 16 in 26 counties in Pennsylvania, with the winner being announced on the show. It will be available for viewing the following day on the WPSU website. 

Although the co-CEOs said they look forward to competing on ABC’s “Shark Tank” if they get the opportunity, one advantage of the YBI competition is they don’t have to surrender any equity, Master said.

The two spoke with Shark Tank representatives when Purpose was still in the idea phase, and show representatives were encouraged by what they heard. If the show has another casting call in the region, “We’ll definitely be there,” Masters said.

Pictured: Purpose therapy box co-CEOs Ali Izzo and Holly Masters will compete in the YBI Shark Tank event Friday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.