Quick--give us your best pitch for a new doughnut. Shark Tank's Robert Herjavec demanded that--and other feats of startup savvy--of three founders in New York City last August at the second event of this year's Small Biz Challenge, sponsored by the UPS Store and Inc. Ingrid Sanden, co-founder of STEM toy startup Boolean Girl Tech, took inspiration from her daughter's celiac disease to improvise a riff for a gluten-free doughnut, and walked away with $12,000, the night's biggest share of the $25,000 that Herjavec awarded. 

Here are five things that led Sanden to the stage:

1. Sanden's Arlington, Virginia-based company sells its coding kits primarily through Amazon. For every kit sold, Boolean Girl Tech sponsors an hourlong computer programming tutorial for a girl in an under­privileged school.

2. After a wildly successful Kickstarter launch in the fall of 2016, the company had just 60 days to fulfill its first 180 orders before the holidays. "We hired a bunch of my 16-year-old daughter's friends and made an assembly line in my basement," Sanden says.

3. Sanden befriended co-founder Brian Moran at coding events he hosted for girls like her daughter in Northern Virginia. Programmer Sarah Eastman overheard Sanden and Moran working on their startup at a coffee shop and struck up a conversation. She became a co-founder several weeks later.

4. The smart-toy market could reach $423.2 billion globally by 2025, according to Grand View Research. Boolean Girl Tech designed its kit with input from girls in their after-school coding clubs and summer camps. "Lots of boys use the Boolean Box," Sanden says. "But girls respond really well, because it was designed for them."

5. Sanden competed against the founders of business-gift company Packed With Purpose and beach-bag company Bogg Bag for the grand prize. She says she and her co-founders will use their winnings to build a marketing plan for their latest product, released in October: an add-on kit to the Boolean Box that has lights, cameras, and sensors. 

From the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Inc. Magazine