If you’re a fan of hummus and veggie dip, you’re probably a fan of Stacy’s Pita Chips, too. However, like most businesses, the snack brand wasn’t always a familiar fixture in grocery stores. A combination of smart advertising tactics, mentoring, and financial support brought the female-founded brand from its origins in sandwich carts to its place in grocery stores (and our pantries!).
In honor of the brand’s rise to fame, Stacy and Frito-Lay partnered to create the Stacy’s Rise Project, a grant program designed to elevate female-founded brands. The 2020 application cycle is now open, the fourth in the Stacy’s Rise program, and it offers $10,000 grants to 15 women-owned businesses.
In addition to the financial support, grantees will receive complimentary ad space and virtual mentorship through Hello Alice, the world’s first machine learning technology designed to match business owners to personalized funding, advancement opportunities, and resources.
“In 2019, female founders received only 2.8% of venture capitalist funding – which means that as small businesses struggle in the current environment, women-owned companies need more support than ever before,” says Ciara Dilley, VP of Marketing, Transform Brands & Portfolio Innovation with Frito-Lay. “Years ago, marketing, mentorship and monetary support helped our own female-founded brand rise from a humble sandwich cart to the nation’s supermarkets. And while the world looks very different today, we know these ingredients are still the recipe for success. That’s why Stacy’s is proudly expanding the Stacy’s Rise Project to share our most valuable resources with 15 women in their journey to help make their dreams a reality.”
During the 2019 iteration of the Stacy’s Rise Project, Stacy’s partnered with Padma Lakshmi for the selection and announcement of Hannah Hong, founder of Hakuna Brands, as the inaugural recipient of the $100,000 grand prize. Hong came from a pool of 400 applicants narrowed down to five finalists, including Kate Holby (Ajiri Tea), Hanna Dehradunwala (Transfernation), Pilar Gonzalez (Dip It by Pilar), and Michele Liddle (The Perfect Granola).
This year, Stacy’s will award fifteen $10,000 grants to female-founded businesses in addition to the new-for-2020 mentorship program. Mentorship includes pairings with Frito-Lay and PepsiCo leaders who are experts in sales, supply, marketing, research & development, and more.
To be eligible for a grant, applicants must be:
- A female-founded small business (in any industry).
- Looking for funding relief.
- Giving back to the community–through individual efforts, or through your company.
- Available to participate in a virtual mentorship program from July to October 2020.
Applications are open now, and will close at 9am CST on June 1st, 2020. The 15 finalists will be announced in July 2020.
The Stacy’s Rise Project is part of a PepsiCo initiative called WomanMade. WomanMade is a collaborative online community hosted through the Alice platform, and is designed to connect female founders with “peer-to-peer mentorship, access to tools, relevant content, and expert guidance.”
Leaders from Frito-Lay and PepsiCo will participate in a panel selection of the 15 finalists for the Stacy’s Rise Project grants. Selection criteria include the uniqueness of the brand proposition, the company or founder’s commitment to social impact, and the ways the founder has leveraged her network or creativity to overcome recent challenges for her business.
According to TechCrunch, venture funding for all-female ventures in 2019 approximated $3 billion–only 2.2% of all U.S. funding activity. Furthermore, PepsiCo reports that only 0.2% of funding goes to diverse female entrepreneurs.
Although the problem seems obvious (and perhaps, the solution even more so), it’s worth noting the massive opportunity feminist philanthropy has to invest in female entrepreneurs. Often, so much funding goes toward campaign-focused and legislation-focused organizations, when modest funding opportunities for female-driven products and businesses fly largely under the radar.
With the right investment strategy and the elevation of female-forward brands, feminist funders could tip the male-dominated scales of the venture capital industry, and help female, gender non-conforming, and diverse entrepreneurs find a platform to share their voices and their stories.
The Stacy’s Rise Project offers a unique mix of corporate funding and social responsibility: by adding in a factor of community improvement (applicants for the grant program must give back to their communities in some way, whether that’s on an individual basis or through a corporate responsibility program), Stacy’s Rise offers entrepreneurs a chance to take a stand with the unique products they present. This blend of capitalism and philanthropy offers a unique way for businesses to grow while providing a service to the world.
Feminist giving can take many different forms, and sometimes the best way to support women — particularly during our challenging economic times due to COVID — is with venture capital. It’s time to take a look at the ways we can use funding to further a cause, support fellow women, and bring some truly unique brands to the market forefront at the same time.
About Stacy’s Rise: The Stacy’s Rise Project, or Stacy’s Rise, is inspired by the success of the Stacy behind Stacy’s Pita Chips. The brand began as a healthy snack offered on sandwich carts, and enjoyed a meteoric “rise” to grocery store fame through clever marketing, high-quality mentorship, and financial support. Stacy’s Rise works to mirror that success by offering similar opportunities to female-founded businesses with unique brand offerings. The 4th annual Rise Project initiative will center around mentoring, supporting and funding female-founded businesses just like Stacy’s®.
About Hello Alice: Hello Alice is a free multi-channel platform for New Majority business owners to find the right path to start and grow their companies. Begun as the world’s first 100% virtual accelerator for women, minority, immigrant, and veteran business owners, Alice grew into the platform it is today: machine learning technology that pairs diverse business owners with personalized funding and advancement opportunities, as well as the professional development resources and networking opportunities business owners need to succeed.
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