Sponsored Content brought to you by: H-E-B

Since 2014, H-E-B has brought together small businesses from across Texas and given them a chance to win big. This year, small businesses that offered the best of the best in local food, drink or other merchandise had the chance to win up to $25,000 in prize money, one year’s worth of free groceries and prime shelf placement for their product. The competition was fierce this year, with more than 600 applicants sending in their videos explaining who they are, what they make and what they do for their community. Every product had much to offer, but only a select few made it through to the final round, the live judging event in Dallas. There at Fair Park, a panel of H-E-B executives and product experts, including {Dallas Morning News} Food and Entertainment Editor Erin Booke and Chet Garner, creator, host and executive producer Texas travel show {The Daytripper}, considered the 10 best products from across Texas, and after much deliberation, this year they awarded the grand prize to PhoLicious, with their authentic Vietnamese rice noodle soup.

An array of products from Austin, Dallas and more than 130 Texas cities entered the competition, all with the shared belief that H-E-B provides a path forward for small businesses. This competition helps entrepreneurs and small companies expand and prosper at a large retailer. The San Antonio-based retailer assists these companies in reaching a wider audience and gaining new clients by offering visibility and distribution, an opportunity that not many startups get the chance to take. Further, H-E-B’s Quest for Texas Best contributes to the growth of the regional economy by highlighting local products created in Texas, and by choosing Texas-made products, customers can support regional farmers, producers and manufacturers, which promotes employment creation and economic expansion across the local market. Additionally, at its heart, the Quest for Texas Best encourages originality and inventiveness. The competition promotes innovative companies and products that show why the Texas small- business community is just getting better and better.

Texas had plenty to offer up this year, but two Austin women exhibited a fierce competitive edge. Of the 180 finalists that have crossed the judge’s table so far, Funky Mello and Wella were some of the strongest competitors Austin has seen to date.


Run by husband-and-wife duo Delisa and Zach Harper, this company promotes a simple, allergen-free way to enjoy a snack. Their plant- based marshmallow creme Dippsterz is one of many reasons why Funky Mello was an obvious finalist in this year’s Quest for Texas Best competition. Ultimately, what pushed this company through to the end was their passion for making good food accessible for people with food allergies while also showcasing that plant- based products can have bold and unique flavors and deserve to be brought to customers across Texas.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Delisa Harper. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Funky Mello based in Austin.

What inspired the desire to create Funky Mello?

I’m a huge foodie with an even bigger sweet tooth, but I also have food allergies. I met my now husband, Zach (who also has food allergies), through a music festival, and we started Funky Mello six months into dating as a hobby. It started as a rice crispy treat business because it was something simple that we could create in unique flavors while keeping it allergen-free. To better scale our business, we pivoted to making marshmallows, which evolved into the marshmallow creme we produce today. Can you believe it’s made with chickpeas!

Your partnership with Fitjoy intentionally supports an incredible cause, ending youth food insecurity. What other initiatives are close to your hearts?

We’re very passionate about food and its critical role in everyone’s life, especially children, so we’re grateful to be able to give a portion of our proceeds from our Dippsterz toward ending food insecurity for the youth. Aside from monetary donations, we also hand out any unused food to the homeless or give it to local food banks or soup kitchens.

What does being a Quest for Texas Best finalist mean for you individually and Funky Mello as a whole?

Being selected as a finalist for Quest for Texas Best this year was a major accomplishment for our business because it served as a stamp of approval for all the hard work we’ve put in to make our new Dippsterz a success. Personally, it was a confidence booster and gave me the opportunity to reflect and celebrate everything we’ve built with Funky Mello. For a startup, milestones like this are super impactful because it gives us credibility and visibility amongst the industry and community, and ultimately helps us get our foot in the door at H-E-B in an incredible way.

Sky’s the limit, what are your wildest dreams/goals for Funky Mello?

It’s been amazing to build Funky Mello from the ground up with my husband, and I’m extremely excited for it to run on its own (so to speak). My goal for this business is for Funky Mello to be a household name. We also want to create enjoyable and meaningful jobs that can take care
of as many people as possible for generations. I started this business because I wanted to enjoy food that I otherwise couldn’t because of my food allergies. Creating and sharing an allergen-free product without artificial ingredients that people truly love means that no one is excluded from enjoying our food. All we have to do is make it accessible and spread awareness. So, my wildest dream is to get it there.


Founder and CEO Deborah Nease also shares a passion for promoting sustainable and accessible products across Texas. In recent years, Wella has been working hand-in-hand with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to preserve and protect local Texas honey bee populations, using local honey in their honey-sweetened peanut butter protein bar. For them, responsible sourcing and good ingredients are the start of any good local product. Strengthening their local community and ecosystem is a cause that’s very near and dear to their company’s heart.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hi there. I’m Deborah Nease, founder and CEO of Wella. Entrepreneur by day, wanderlust lover-of-dogs traveler by night. I’m passionate about better-for-you food innovation, the magic that happens when breaking bread with those you love and lifting up local Texas talent.

What inspired the desire to create Wella?

Our unwavering belief that nutritious, whole foods are essential for enhancing overall well-being. We saw a problem: eating healthily on the go was tough. So, Wella emerged from a craving for clean, real whole-food snacks, free from preservatives and chemicals. Our mission: crafting tasty, healthy snacks for your on-the-go cravings!

Tell us a bit about the partnership between Wella and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

To put it simply, we innovated our way into a love affair with bees. During the development of Wella Bars, a delectable honey-sweetened peanut butter protein bar, it ignited a strong desire to raise awareness about the challenges faced by honey bee populations and to support initiatives that promote pollinator habitats and bee education programs. In light of this mission, we’ve proudly supported the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Our partnership has taken many forms over the years, from corporate sponsorships and monthly donations to event sampling and event support and beyond.

Why have you taken on the cause of preserving and protecting honey bees?

Because pollinators are the unsung heroes of our food diversity! By championing honey bee conservation, we proudly live up to our name “Wella,” which signifies our commitment to improving and making things better for the environment and future generations.

What other initiatives are close to your hearts?

Responsible sourcing! Wherever possible we work directly with suppliers to ensure our ingredients are grown and harvested in a way that protects both people and the planet.

What does being a Quest for Texas Best finalist mean for you individually and Wella as a whole?

Our grain-free cereal was a huge shift for us. Lauren, my oldest daughter, almost didn’t present the idea to our team because she wasn’t sure it fit our product lineup. She thought it might be too “out there” for customers too. So, making it to the top 10 in H-E-B’s Quest for Texas Best was the most amazing validation she could have asked for!

Sky’s the limit, what are your wildest dreams/goals for Wella?

Being a household staple brand and accessible to as many families as possible, famous for making people feel delighted and fueled with every bite.


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