Flawless by Gabrielle Union, a haircare brand founded by Gabrielle Union, has awarded $75,000 in grants and mentorship sessions to three Black, female-owned businesses through its Lift As We Climb initiative. The initiative seeks to support Black businesses which have “historically seen a barrier to access in capital, expertise, and opportunities,” a release by the actress’ haircare brand said.
The initiative said early this year that it will award three $25,000 grants to Black female-owned businesses in the fashion, skincare and hair accessories sectors. Businesses had to submit a one-minute video and a brand deck to an expert panel of judges, including Union to be considered for the grant and mentorship.
Union worked with 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, as judges to chose six finalists out of 500 submissions. The six chosen participated in a virtual pitch in March and one recipient from the three qualifying categories was selected as winner.
Per the release, the recipient from the fashion category is Todd Patrick by Desyree Thomas (Atlanta, GA) while the recipient from the skincare category is O’Dara Exotic Skincare by Najah Elessie (Garden Grove, CA). The recipient from the haircare accessory category is Sotro by Stephanie Louis (Brooklyn, NY).
“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 said she would use the grant from Union to open a luxury spa to contribute to mental health and self-care. Black women businesses continue to face barriers in access to capital and opportunities. Figures show that Black business owners generally receive less than 2% of overall funding each year. In 2021, Black women entrepreneurs got 0.34% of the total venture capital spent in the United States. Union’s initiative is seeking to reverse this trend.