Smart & Sexy and Curvy Couture — two lingerie brands owned by Ariela & Associates LLC, the 27-year-old privately held intimates apparel manufacturer — is handing out cash prizes (15 $10,000 grants and four $25,000 grants) to female business owners during a virtual ceremony Friday.
The event is in partnership with Count Me In Revival, a nonprofit organization that works to advance women-founded and women-run businesses.
“Twenty-twenty has undoubtedly created a challenging business climate,” Ariela Weiss Esquenazi, chief executive officer and president of Ariela & Associates, as well as founder of Smart & Sexy, told WWD. “I wanted to help and I knew that these times required action now. As a women-owned company, it was an easy decision to align with Count Me In to help other female business owners to evolve and persevere by providing business grants, a series of virtual events and business coaching.”
And in the era of the coronavirus — when unemployment remains at record highs and many businesses are forced to close down operations for good — competition was intense. More than 400 applicants applied. An all-female panel narrowed it down to 40 finalists.
The judges are Esquenazi; Nely Galán, former president of entertainment for Spanish-language TV network Telemundo; Margery Miller, president and owner of People Biz, a leadership development organization; Sandi Webster and Peggy McHale, cofounders of Pandi, a consulting firm; and Evora Russell, cofounder and vice president of sales and marketing at Curvy Couture.
The 19 winners include Tiffany Jinez Davis and Amber Davis, cofounders of Context & Co., a creative marketing firm; Kimberly Grant and Dawn Brown, founders of Math-A-Matics Tutoring, an online and in-person math tutoring service in the Houston area; Elise Lindborg, ceo of Brand Pride, a marketing and advertising firm; Jenette Goldstein, founder of Jenette Bras; and Nicole Christie, an attorney at The Christie Law Firm, among others.
All women-owned or women-led firms that have been in business for at least three years were eligible to apply. Applicants were judged on the company’s financial history, sustainability efforts, community impact and go-forward plans. Winners also receive business coaching sessions.
The contest joins the likes of other lingerie start-ups, including ThirdLove and Pepper, which have recently awarded Black female entrepreneurs with similar grants.
“We want to help underrepresented entrepreneurs kick-start their business, in their own way,” said Jaclyn Fu, cofounder and ceo of Pepper. In the past few months Pepper — the brand that caters to small-chested women — has also donated $10,000 to COVID-19 relief efforts and donated hundreds of bras to frontline medical workers.
Meanwhile, shapewear and innerwear brand Shapermint helped raise $100,000 for the American Nurses Foundation through its #WeAreInThisTogether initiative.