The SB Innovation Open is a business plan competition for mission-driven startups and entrepreneurs held every year at our flagship event.

In its 6th year, the competition will provide an opportunity for next generation brands to showcase their innovative solutions to today’s pressing environmental, social and economic challenges, as well as connect and collaborate with multi-national brands, accelerators and thought leaders in sustainability.

Given the right support and exposure, mission-driven brands are poised to challenge the status quo of business and Sustainable Brands is here to catalyze their success.

Congratulations to our Semi-Finalists

These 11 finalists will join us at SB’17 Detroit to take part in the Activation Hub, pitch in front of our judges and the SB attendees. Get to know them below:

Full Cycle BIoplastics

Bluon Energy

NewGen Surgical, Inc.

toxnot PBC


Immotor, LLC

eKutir Global PBC

Detroit Ento

Totem Power

GoPure Water Purifier


The Timeline

April 7, 2017
Entry form closes
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Timeline Circle image April 11, 2017 
Public vote begins – A shortlist of entries will be presented for the SB community to vote for who they want to see make it to the Innovation Open finals.
April 23, 2017
Public vote closes
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Timeline Circle image April 25, 2017 
Public vote winner announced and confirmed to pitch at the finals
April 26 – May 22, 2017
11 finalists are interviewed for the Sustainable Brands website and presented to the News & Views  community.
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Timeline Circle image May 23, 2017
The pitch! The 11 semi-finalists will pitch their ideas to our esteemed panel of judges. Four finalists will be chosen to present at the conference on the following day.
May 24, 2017
The finals! The top 4 pitch in front of the full SB audience on the main stage. A live vote will be held to pick a ‘People’s Choice Winner’ and the judges will determine the overall ‘SB’17 Innovation Open Winner’. Finals are available to the global SB community via livestream and post-event in the SB Library.
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The Prizes

11 Semi-Finalists

  • An All-Event conference pass to SB’17 Detroit
  • An Activation Hub staff pass (does not include access to conference program)
  • Table space for 4 days in the Activation Hub
  • Pitch to the entire SB’17 Detroit conference attendee and Activation Hub audience, filled with influential brand representatives and thought leaders
  • Promotion leading up to the conference through SB News & Views
  • One on one time with our expert panel of judges
  • 4 days worth of networking opportunities
  • Company description published in conference event guide

4 Finalists

  • Present on the plenary mainstage in front of entire SB’17 Detroit attending community
  • This presentation is broadcast around the world via Livestream and archived in the SB Library to extend its reach and longevity.

Overall Winner

  • Golden SB ticket to grant access to all SB Conferences for the next 3 years.
  • 3-hour consultation session from Whirlpool internal teams to strengthen the winner’s business case/model.
  • Ford Motor Company is pleased to reward SBIO winners with 3 hour consultation from Ford experts to further strengthen the business case.

The Judges

Dimitar Vlahov

Dimitar Vlahov
Director, Content Development
Sustainable Brands

Dimitar is the Director of Content Development at Sustainable Brands. He joined the Sustainable Brands team after earning a Master’s degree in Management Science & Engineering – focused on sustainable business – from Stanford University. Before Stanford, Dimitar worked in international development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and also in economic consulting at Charles River Associates and NERA. Born and raised in Bulgaria, Dimitar left his home country for the first time about a decade ago to go to college in the U.S. He has since turned into something of an international man of mystery, thriving on global friendships, global food and global thoughts.
Aria Finger

Aria Finger

As CEO and Chief Old Person of, the largest organization for young people and social change in the world, Aria Finger uses her expertise on all things young people and tech to lead a diverse, impact-driven team. She has been an instrumental part of scaling from less than 100,000 members to over 5 million members in 131 countries today. Starting at as an associate 10 years ago, Aria created their Teens for Jeans campaign which has clothed over 5 million homeless teenagers to date.

With her cause-related marketing experience, Finger has spearheaded partnerships with top brands including Johnson & Johnson, H&M, Sprint and American Express.

In 2013, she founded and became President of TMI, a strategic consultancy that uses’s 20+ years of experience to help clients reach young people and fuel positive impact in the world.

Aria graduated magna cum laude in economics and political science from Washington University in St. Louis, and completed the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Aria currently serves on the board of the NYC-based not-for-profit Care for the Homeless, was one of the first ten World Economic Forum Global Shapers and is an adjunct professor at New York University. She has been highlighted in the New York Times, Fast Company and was named to the 2012 Crain’s New York Business list of “40 Under Forty” and featured on the cover. In 2016, she was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

When she is not running or desperately trying to improve her Spanish, Aria can be found reading The New Jim Crow for the thousandth time, or relearning her ABCs with the newest addition to the DS family, her adorable son Luke.

Geoff Kendall

Geoff Kendall
CEO & Co-Founder
Future Fit Foundation

Geoff is CEO of the Future-Fit Foundation, which is leading the creation of a new open source benchmark to help business leaders and investors assess the true future-fitness of companies.

Geoff holds a PhD in artificial intelligence, spent four years as Development Director at think-tank and consultancy SustainAbility, and co-founded and sold two software start-ups.

Geof Rochester

Geof Rochester
Managing Director
The Nature Conservancy

Geof Rochester is currently, Managing Director, in essence acting as Chief Visibility Officer and spokesperson for The Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy’s mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Prior to this new role he had functioned as TNC’s Chief Marketing Officer since 2010. As CMO he was responsible for steering the organization’s marketing, membership and brand strategies. Since coming to TNC Geof has pushed the organization to broaden support for the environment by going after mega brand partners and unusual collaborations. Some of these have included Macys, Subway, Harley Davidson, Univision, Globo. TNC has been recognized for its Marketing prowess winning several awards over the years, including – DMA nonprofit of the year 2012, Shorty Award Best of Social Media in the Charity Category, 2013 (finalist) and also Harris Poll Equitrend Environmental Non-Profit Brand of the Year (2013).

Before coming to The Nature Conservancy, Geof served as the EVP for Marketing at World Wrestling Entertainment. Prior to that, he served as SVP for Marketing at Showtime Networks. He held senior marketing positions at Comcast Communications, Radisson Hotels International and Proctor and Gamble. A graduate of Georgetown University, Geof received his M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He was born in Barbados, but has lived most of his life in the United States. He also serves on the following boards: Georgetown University Alumni Senate, the board of ecoAmerica (a climate change think tank), and on the Alumni Board of Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership.


Sandy Skees
Regional Director

Sandy Skees is Regional Director at BSI She leads the sustainability practice as well as managing the growth of BSI’s Northern California region, delivering a range of consulting services and program implementation ranging from sustainability and corporate social responsibility, worker safety, business continuity planning, and EHS services. Prior to BSI, Sandy served as Managing Director for Fenton Communications West Coast, accelerating progress through social change communications. Her work with corporations, nonprofits, and NGOs was focused in consumer products, recycling and waste, renewable energy, supply chain and LGBT issues, She brings over 25 years’ experience in leading professional service firms, corporate and communications strategy.

Skees previously ran her own firm Communications4Good, where she served early stage and Fortune 500 companies. While a partner at Porter Novelli, she managed the global HP account team in 20 cities/10 countries around the world and created programs, processes and predictive integration points as a framework for ensuring global implementation of cutting edge communications techniques. She sits on numerous boards including 100 Women Who Care, Sustainable Brands, Mini Mermaid Running Club, was appointed to a four year team on the Santa Cruz County’s Human Services Commission, and is a seasoned speaker on brand, messaging and sustainability strategy.


Colton Babladelis
Student/Alumni Affairs Coordinator
Erb Institute University of Michigan

Colton works at the nexus of business, sustainability, and education at the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. He has collaborated with the Zell Lurie Institute at University of Michigan to judge and coach the Impact Track of their annual Michigan Business Challenge, and has been a judge for the Roddenberry Prize. He is also the author of a book of poetry, “Grains of Sand” published by Winter Goose Publishing.


John Cangany
CSR Communications Manager
Ford Motor Company

John leads corporate social responsibility (CSR) communications for Ford Motor Company, Interbrand’s 2014 Best Global Green Brand.

In this role, he is responsible for communicating Ford’s corporate responsibility efforts to all external audiences, including media, NGO partners, and consumers. Additionally, John supports Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford in his vision to develop sustainable and innovative mobility solutions around the globe that make people’s lives better.

Prior to working at Ford Motor Company, John spent nearly a decade in Washington, DC. He led APCO Worldwide’s digital and creative practice group. While at APCO, John led strategy development and communications campaigns focused on energy, the environment, health, technology and transportation for some the world’s largest companies. John is passionate about sustainability and technology, and how online communication and digital communities shape world events.


Colette C. Matthews, Ph.D.
Global Innovation Director
Whirlpool Corp.

Colette is an experienced marketing and product development professional with over a decade of experience in both the CPG and Durable goods industry. In her current role, Colette oversees all aspects of consumer-centric disruptive innovation, Open Innovation and Trends & Foresight at the world’s leading manufacturer of major home appliances.

In her previous role previous roles at Whirlpool, Colette has led both the Connectivity & Smart Home, as well as, Consumer Insights & Strategy teams where she was instrumental in helping shape brand positioning, consumer understanding and build innovation roadmaps within Whirlpool Corporation to drive product and brand leadership.

She kicked off her career at Procter & Gamble with product development roles in both the Global Beauty (China and developing markets) and Health Care business units. Later she accepted a position at Newell Rubbermaid, Beauty & Style Business Unit, where she helped drive consumer driven innovation with assignments in both Brand Management and Consumer Insights. Matthews has led the development and/or worked on a broad array of brands, including Olay, Old Spice, Goody, Solano, the entire portfolio of Whirlpool Corp. brands.
Colette holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Bachelors of Biochemistry from North Carolina State.


How to Win



Innovative design
Social and environmental impact – specifically coupled with identified impact metrics (for example, “our business innovation helps customers lower their carbon footprint by XX% compared to the product we’re disrupting”, or “our innovation will help customers increase savings by XX% and keep their money local, leading to more stable local economies.”)

Team quality

Particularly as it relates to demonstrated track record and understanding of systemic issues of sustainability

Economic scalability

Growth and impact potential

Above and Beyond

Bonus points for disruptive innovation. The idea has approached the issue from a new perspective and is offering a solution that will truly shift the market as we know it.



It is free! It is important to note, Sustainable Brands takes no fees or equity from the startups.  Thanks to Target and our other sponsors, applying and participating in the SB Innovation Open is 100% free.

This new venture showcase is focused on identifying and promoting innovative new consumer brands, AND ventures that support existing corporations in achieving their sustainable brand innovation goals. We are looking for companies in their:

  • Post-Launch Phase: The venture is operational and has some early operating metrics and/or proven Beta/prototype to share. In investment terms we are considering “Late Stage” and “Series A” funded companies.

You can apply via the ‘Apply Now’ button above or completing an entry form here:

You will need to include the following to complete an application into the competition:

  • 30-120 second video describing your company mission, your product, and the impact you are hoping to achieve.  See example of 2016 entrants: Grubbly Farms, Conscious Period, ReGrained, Kizazi, Soofa
  • elevator pitch
  • website
  • commitment to sustainability
  • specific metrics into your business model and plan [NOTE: these metrics are confidential to SB judges only, not accessible to public vote]
All semi-finalists are given table space at our Activation Hub which runs May 22-25, 2017, so we recommend taking advantage of the 4 days. We are awarding semi-finalists an Activation Hub Staff Pass so that you can man your space with one team member and have another be your pitch expert and attend the conference programming.  The semi-finals are on day 2 of the conference and the 4 finalists selected will pitch again on day 3.  So it’s possible that the person on your team who will pitch could still compete but only be present for those two days, leaving unattended space in the Activation Hub.
We offer one full conference pass to each semi-finalist startup, one Activation Hub Staff Pass and can provide at-cost passes to any additional team mates should you wish to bring them.
No. The Activation Hub is open Monday 6:30-9pm, Tuesday and Wednesday from 12-7pm,  and Thursday 12-3pm.  While you are required to be present in your space in the Activation Hub during peak hours (12:30-2pm lunch, 5:30-7pm reception), we encourage you to take advantage of the morning plenary sessions.  If you do take advantage of the Activation Hub Staff pass then you can leave one team member with the table space while the other explores the afternoon content.
Not for this competition although we encourage you to find out more about non-profits participating in the Activation Hub. For this competition we’re looking for businesses who can successfully balance People, Planet AND Profit.
Not at this time. We are convinced that the networking, introductions, leading-edge speakers & publicity generated by taking part make any expense a worthwhile investment. We will however offer any discounts when/if available to us.

You, the applicant, are solely responsible for your intellectual property rights, trademarks, copyrights, etc. If you think you have intellectual property rights, we recommend you consult an attorney before you apply for the competition. Applicants are expected to submit a compelling presentation without disclosing critical intellectual property. By submitting an application, you acknowledge that applying for the SBIO could result in disclosure of your intellectual property if such information is included in your application.

SB wants you to know that there are always certain risks involved in competitions of this nature. SB is not in a position to protect or advise you on your intellectual property rights, SB cannot and does not take any responsibility for doing so. Please be aware that SB does not require non-disclosure agreements or other confidentiality obligations from anyone involved in the SB Innovation Open.

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