Gabrielle Union Awards $75,000 in Grants to Black Women Entrepreneurs

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Through its Lift As We Climb campaign, Flawless by Gabrielle Union, a haircare brand launched by Union, has granted $75,000 in grants and mentorship sessions to three Black, female-owned businesses. According to a press statement from the actress’ haircare firm, the program aims to help Black businesses that have “historically faced a barrier to access in capital, expertise, and opportunities.”

Early this year, the initiative announced three $25,000 grants to Black female-owned firms in the fashion, skincare, and hair accessories industries. To be considered for the grant and mentorship, businesses had to submit a one-minute video and a brand deck to an expert team of judges, which included Union.

Union chose six finalists from 500 submissions with the help of judges Larry Sims, co-founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union; Jacqueline Jones, head of strategic partnerships for LinkedIn’s Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging team; B. Pagels-Minor, founder of DVRGNT Ventures; and Antoine Gregory, founder of Black Fashion Fair. The six finalists competed in a virtual pitch in March, with one winner chosen from each of the three qualifying categories.

According to the release, the fashion category winner is Todd Patrick by Desyree Thomas (Atlanta, GA), while the skincare category winner is O’Dara Exotic Skincare by Najah Elessie (Garden Grove, CA). Sotro by Stephanie Louis (Brooklyn, NY) is the winner of the haircare accessory category.

“We were so thrilled to see the response to the initiative,” said Union. “We saw so much amazing talent and entrepreneurial spirit throughout the process, so we are excited to be able to shine a much-needed light on this success.”

Elessie, one of the recipients, said she almost discontinued her luxury skincare business last year. “This time last year I posted on my story that I was going to discontinue my skincare brand because I didn’t didn’t have enough support. Friends will support celebrities before they support you. Family will have their hand out but won’t offer to help,” she wrote on Instagram. “Most people see my page and think ‘she doesn’t need my sale’. But the truth is EVERY entrepreneur needs support. We rely on community to thrive.”

Elessie stated that she plans to utilize the Union award to create a luxury spa to promote mental wellness and self-care. Access to funding and opportunity for black women-owned companies remains a challenge. According to statistics, Black business owners receive less than 2% of total funding each year. Black women entrepreneurs will receive 0.34% of total venture capital spend in the United States in 2021. The Union project aims to counteract this trend.

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