Kate McAleer of Bixby and Co. has received a considerable stimulus from New York designer Tory Burch for reinventing the candy bar. The Tory Burch Foundation announced Monday that McAleer, founder of Rockland’s organic craft chocolate biz, is the company’s inaugural pitch winner. The honor comes with a $100,000 investment for product development.
McAleer was one of 500 female entrepreneurs from across the country who entered the competition — and the only from Maine. In March she was selected as a finalist, was voted to the top 10 and ultimately bested them all.
“I’m thrilled and excited. It’s really changing the dialogue on women and their access to capital,” said McAleer, reached by phone in Washington, D.C.
The Rockport resident presented her pitch before a panel of judges, from the head of the FDA, to the managing editor of Glamour Magazine to fashion models in Burch’s Manhattan headquarters last week.
“We were extremely impressed with the quality of Kate’s product and her vision for growing her business. She has a big dream and bold ambitions,” Burch said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to seeing how she will use this investment to build on her success so far.”
The entrepreneur knows exactly how she’ll spend the dough. In September or October she plans to launch a new product called Bixby Bites, portion controlled versions of her bigger bars sold in a pouch.
“This is a game changer. It allows us to continue to be competitive,” said the first Burch fellow. “The food business is very layered and textured. This is an opportunity to scale manufacturing and continue to grow.”
With the windfall she will buy equipment for her mini confections, but stopped short of saying Bixby and Co. will staff up to meet demand. Besides cash, McAleer gains access to education, mentoring and networking opportunities from the New York design house.
Beyond her inventive chocolate, offered in varieties like vegan dark chocolate, peanut and Maine sea salt, McAleer said the award is a vote of confidence for all Maine-made goods.
“Although Maine is a small state, we are competing on a national level and winning.”