Meet The Women Of The Red Backpack Fund

Meet a few women of The Red Backpack Fund, a COVID-19 relief and recovery program made possible by The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation in partnership with GlobalGiving.


They help kids get from point A to B safely, coach fellow women through challenges, care for castaway cats, and more. Meet a few Red Backpack Fund grantees! These women are the hearts and souls of their communities. COVID-19 threatens their livelihoods and the businesses they’ve built from the ground up. But thanks to a generous gift from fellow entrepreneur and Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, these incredible women are better positioned to weather the pandemic—not only to keep their businesses afloat, but to help them thrive.

The Red Backpack Fund is an initiative of The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation, who teamed up with GlobalGiving to support female entrepreneurs in the wake of COVID-19.

The first four rounds of Red Backpack Fund recipients were announced on May 14, June 12, July 17, and Aug. 24. Each cohort is 200 recipients, all of whom receive a $5,000 grant, an all-access pass to MasterClass, and a “lucky” red backpack. The $5,000 is significant—it’s the same amount Sara started Spanx with. The “lucky red backpack” has meaning, too. Sara carried hers with her in the early days of Spanx, and it’s become a symbol of starting small and dreaming big. From now through September, GlobalGiving will in total grant 1,000 women-owned and led organizations $5,000 each to help them weather the pandemic.

Learn more about how Red Backpack Fund recipients are overcoming adversities and looking ahead to the future:

    Afriqiyah and Loraine keep fellow New Yorkers healthy by providing highly individualized physical therapy.

    Afriqiyah and Loraine- Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We are two African American women who started Revolution Physical Therapy NYC two years ago with a vision to optimize patient care within the New York City area. Our business has been successful because of the highly skilled ’boutique’ individualized services provided by my partner and I for one hour in a one-on-one setting… This grant will assist in allowing us to provide care to both patients affected directly by the coronavirus and patients who continue to need care due to injury or surgery, as well as help us advance our technology for improving our telehealth communication resources.”

    — Afriqiyah Nana Woods and Loraine Antoine, Co-Owners of Revolution Physical Therapy

    Amy is building a network of good.

    Amy from cablemaids
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We are a small, woman-owned business that installs network cabling. The bulk of our business (90%) is from nonprofit organizations, such as The Salvation Army and AIDS Healthcare Foundation. We love our work. We love the people we get to meet all over the country. We love their stories, their passion, and their commitment to helping others. We love being able to give our all to our clients and to help in small ways. Sometimes it’s providing a great service for a reasonable price, other times it’s cabling someone’s home or buying desks for a kids’ summer camp program. We will use grant money from the Red Backpack Fund to meet payroll and re-stock supplies that we normally use, as our warehouse is down to almost no cable.”

    —Amy James, Owner of Cablemaids

    Angelina unlocks the potential within her community.

    Angelina. Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “Our neighbors are resilient, hard-working people who face many obstacles, and we seek to work alongside them through our education, health, food, and housing programs. COVID-19 has greatly disrupted how we serve our community. Since the start of this crisis, we have distributed over 300,000 pounds of food to over 8,000 households. This grant will help us continue to distribute at least 400 food boxes a week for the duration of the crisis, pay for our staff, and make up for losses from past weeks. We want to unlock our neighbors’ potential because we know them, care for them, and have faced many of the same difficulties they have.”

    — Angelina Iliana Zayas, CEO & Co-Founder of GAP Community Center

    Aubre is redefining the status quo of sleepwear.

    Aubrey Myers, Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We are a Black-owned company that helps men and women feel good again by providing luxury sleepwear that bridges the gap between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Before the pandemic, I operated only at concerts, fundraisers, and pop-up shop events. Our marketing was strictly through customer feedback photos and word of mouth. After the pandemic hit, everything came to a screeching halt for Myers Legacy. This grant money will help us transition to an e-commerce-based business, upgrade our current website, security certificate, and inventory, and establish a digital marketing budget.”

    — Aubre Myers, CEO & Founder of Myers Legacy

    Audrey is paving the road from college to Congress.

    Audrey, College to Congress
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “College to Congress provides pathways for college students from low-income, under-represented, and disadvantaged communities to kickstart their careers in public service through training and funded internships in Congress. Due to COVID-19, we have drastically changed our training model and created an online career preparation platform to continue serving students across the nation by connecting them with virtual internships. However, College to Congress’ revenue and fundraising prospects have significantly declined due to the economic impacts of the pandemic, leading to immediate effects on our ability to continue supporting and empowering in-need college students across the country. With the support of the Red Backpack Fund, College to Congress can continue empowering the next generation of public servants across the country through COVID-19 and beyond.”

    — Audrey Henson, CEO & Founder of College To Congress

    Calle puts sustainability at the center of her mission.

    Callee. Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We are a social impact company determined to make a sustainable lifestyle more affordable and accessible to all. During COVID-19, the combined financial losses from closing our four-month-old storefront and our wholesale stockists shutting down have put a significant strain on our already-limited budget. The Red Backpack Fund’s $5,000 will allow my employees to continue paying their bills and feeding their families, regardless of their current work situation.”

    — Callee Allen, CEO of Bestowed Essentials

    Carmen is bringing communities together through this tasty South American beverage.

    Carmen_Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “Porteñas brings the Argentine culture of friendship to the United States through the spicy Yerba Mate beverage. We believe in the power of strengthening the diversity of our local community in Brooklyn and empowering the immigrant and LGBTQ+ workers of Brooklyn. Due to COVID-19, we had to modify our sales strategy to focus on online sales and catering services for frontline workers. These funds will help us hire workers to grow our business. We see these challenging times as an opportunity to make the changes that are necessary to grow stronger.”

    — Carmen Ferreyra, Founder of Porteñas

    Carolina is making waves in a predominantly-male industry.

    Red Backpack Fund, Carolina
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We are a Latina-owned architecture and design studio. The grant will help us continue to provide building design services that in turn requires hundreds of trade workers to build, many of them with Spanish as their native language. We are able to communicate with these workers to facilitate a project well done. My dream is to keep empowering women in our field and show what we are capable of.”

    — Carolina Pena, Founder of Parallel Architecture Studio LLC

    Chaunda and her team provide affordable and safe transportation to school children in Atlanta.

    Chaunda Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “The Red Backpack fund grant will be instrumental in keeping our business afloat… Our parents and community, particularly parents with special needs kids, are counting on us to weather this so that we can eventually re-open and continue serving the schools and the community. Until schools re-open, we are seeking to partner with them to deliver meals, education packets, and school supplies to children who need them.”

    — Chaunda Brock, Co-Founder of Atlanta Kruzin Kidz

    Divitta is fulfilling the basic need for affordable housing.

    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We are a law practice that specializes in affordable housing and community development law. While affordable housing development was ultimately deemed essential, many projects were unable to proceed as planned due to the adverse effects of COVID-19. The Red Backpack Fund grant money will provide the cash flow needed to ensure the ability to meet future payroll and operating expenses and support technology infrastructure that working remotely requires.”

    — Divitta Alexander, Owner and Managing Member of Divitta Alexander PLLC

    Elizabeth’s mission is fresh, affordable produce for all.

    Elizabeth_Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “Forty Acres Fresh Market is a Black woman-owned social impact grocer with the mission of increasing access to fresh produce in Chicago’s underserved communities. We strive to provide quality produce at affordable prices and support education and economic development by providing sustainable jobs in the communities we serve. The Red Backpack Fund will help us ferment the permanence of a brick and mortar store and ensure our longevity beyond the global pandemic. This funding would be immediately used to secure a site for construction for our grocery store.”

    — Elizabeth Abunaw, Founder of Forty Acres Fresh Market

    Fran’s app will make clean restrooms more accessible.

    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “Our product and services are designed to solve restroom accessibility challenges for everyone, including those experiencing homelessness. Our business has been paralyzed by the shelter-in-place mandate, yet we offer a valuable ‘touchless technology’ solution to help businesses and cities recover from the global health crisis. As businesses and customers are seeking healthier and more sanitary access solutions, the demand for our touchless technology will become mainstream. The Red Backpack Fund will allow our company to stabilize, offset our expenses, and rehire our team so we can present our idea to more businesses.”

    — Fran Heller, Founder and CEO of Good2Go

    Gisele challenges the status quo in construction.

    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “I opened this company because there was a need for affordable small job services that most contractors wouldn’t even bid on, particularly for seniors and single women… I’ve proven you can build a business on integrity and excellence without exploiting your customers, contrary to industry standards. I will overcome this crisis, as I have others along my path of entrepreneurship, just this time with a little assistance from programs like the Red Backpack Fund.”

    — Gisele, Founder and CEO of Strongman Services LLC

    Helen’s free harp lessons create new opportunities for students.

    Helen. Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We provide free harp lessons for the lowest income students in Philadelphia’s public schools. We will use the emergency funds to pay our teachers, maintain our harps, and provide the best programming we can during this trying time. Our programs provide executive functioning skills, leadership opportunities, and emotional development. We also teach “harp gigging” skills and job-training as a sustainable way to be self-employed. Through our various programs, our students have access to mentors, development tools, college preparatory materials, summer camp scholarships, and other resources that will help them succeed later in life.”

    — Helen Gerhold, Executive Director of The Lyra Society

    Karla prioritizes the voice of indigenous women in the fight against climate change.

    Karla Red Backpack Fund Recipient
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “The Climate Justice Initiative is not only the first Indigenous climate change organization in the US, but also the first that is led by a founding board of Indigenous women. CJI is designed to empower indigenous peoples, notably indigenous women, to transform the narratives and lives of those affected by climate change and is in a position to have an outsized impact on global climate change mitigation. CJI is an organization with the experience and expertise to provide capacity-building programming led by and serving those most impacted by climate change. This grant will help us support native peoples and communities in the face of both COVID-19 and climate change.”

    — Karla Brollier, Founder and Director of Climate Justice Initiative

    Katie and Taylor’s coffee shop highlights ability over disability.

    Katie and Taylor Red Backpack Fund Recipients
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “COVID-19 hit us right in the mission. Our mission is to employ and empower individuals with disabilities. Closing our doors during quarantine took away our ability to continue payroll for our staff, as well as our staff’s sense of purpose. We currently have 17 employees, but our waitlist for employment is over 40 people long. That is just in our small community, this is a nationwide need. This grant money will allow us to give our staff the hours they desire and reignite that sense of purpose and being that employment provides.”

    — Katie Holyfield and Taylor Ann Matkins, Co-Owners of Lucky Ones Coffee

    Katie and Lindsey value their patients like their own family.

    Katie and Lindsey Red Backpack Fund Recipients
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We are a privately-owned, all-female dental practice that treats our neighbors as if they were our family… With changes to our required PPE, we’ve seen a significant increase in our supply costs. We feel our community as a whole has been greatly impacted financially by this pandemic and we do not feel it is in our business standards to pass on the costs to patients or employees. This grant will help us to maintain our loyal employees with our payroll expenses as well as cover the costs of our newly implemented PPE requirements.”

    — Katie Stuchlik and Lindsey Wendt, Co-Owners of Dentistry of the Oaks

    Katy helps homeless cats find forever homes.

    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “A $5,000 grant would be a game-changer for getting us back into the swing of things just as soon as we possibly can! We also have staff that we treasure, and we would love to give them some assistance as well. Mainly, we just want to get back to business so we can serve the ameowzing cats and customers of our coMEWnity!”

    — Katy Poitras, Co-Owner and Manager of Cat Tales Cat Cafe

    Michelle is building a fitness community for everyone, everywhere.


    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We are a boxing and yoga studio located in Orange, New Jersey. Our goal is to drive camaraderie and community with a fitness studio that is diverse and welcoming to all. Due to the pandemic, we have continued to offer online and outdoor classes. However, we charge significantly less for our online formats, and we have limited access to outdoor classes. We will use flexible funding to keep operations going and continue to pivot to new fitness formats and ideas”

    —Michelle Swittenberg, Co-founder of BRWL Studio

    Myra prepares her community for jobs that lead to careers.

    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for their business:

    “These funds will help us re-employ the members of our multicultural female staff that were laid off due to COVID-19. Our services are greatly needed right now as more and more jobs are being lost due to COVID-19. Many people have contacted us to prepare for interviews, resume assistance, resources for interview clothing, job search tools, and more. We work in the community to bring these services to the masses…We truly prepare people for long-term employment by creating plans to minimize personal issues that might negatively impact work-life.”

    — Myra Brown, CEO Co-Founders of NWON Opportunities

    Quinn and Sara teach women how to take control of their safety.

    Quinn and Sara Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for their business:

    “COVID-19 has not solved sexual assault and safety—in fact we know there will be a higher need for our product once people are able to socialize again and go on dates… This funding will enable us to stay in business through this tough time… The rates of online dating have increased significantly during quarantining and people are lining up their in-person dates for when it lifts—we want to be able to be there for them in that time.”

    — Quinn Fitzgerald and Sara de Zarraga, Co-Founders of Flare

    Renee helps women overcome obstacles and build stronger relationships.

    Renee_Red Backpack Fund
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “We are a Women Wealth Wellness Hub that empowers women to overcome obstacles and build better relationships through financial literacy, health and wellness, and fashion and beauty. Making the shift to online events during the pandemic came with a learning curve and many canceled events. This grant will allow us to continue providing programs, summits, and positive reinforcement to help women during this pandemic…Specifically, we will use the funds to improve our wellness hub from the online portal to improve marketing and have more empowerment sessions weekly.”

    — Renee Knorr, Founder of Global Women Wealth Warriors

    Roxana and the artists at A.I.R Gallery are making waves in the art world.

    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “Artists in Residence, Inc., also known as A.I.R. Gallery, was established in 1972 as the first not-for-profit, artist-directed and maintained gallery for women artists in the United States. A.I.R. has functioned as a space for self-identified women artists ever since, developing a unique cooperative model through which scarce assets have been shared and women’s issues have been raised. Like all other small nonprofit organizations that depend on public participation and support, A.I.R Gallery has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. A.I.R. has been changing the art landscape in the US since the 1970s, and we hope to continue doing so while not only surviving this crisis but growing and expanding from it.”

    — Roxana Fabius, Executive Director of A.I.R Gallery

    Secily helps fellow women overcome adversity.

    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “Without the opportunities we provide to break the negative cycle, women remain trapped in a life they may not have chosen… But the impact of your funding will allow WOW to continue addressing women’s health, education, and economic empowerment. Investing in women and a program improving income-generating activities, like Fall into Fabulous, yields a large return on investment.”

    —Secily Wilson, Founder of WOW Legacy Group

    Sheerine and Karla envision a future free from gender-based violence.

    RBF Sheerine and Karla

    “Our mission is to end gender-based violence by building the leadership and collective power of the communities most impacted. Healing to Action achieves its mission through survivor-led community organizing of grassroots campaigns, leadership development, and capacity-building partnerships with grassroots social justice organizations. Our model is vital during the pandemic, with survivors of gender-based violence more isolated than ever before. Lost income replaced by the Red Backpack Fund will support program expenses such as staff time, program meeting expenses for survivor leaders, campaign expenses, and general operating expenses for Healing to Action to carry out its mission.”

    —Sheerine Alemzadeh, Co-founder and Director of Healing to Action

    Sprinavasa runs a one-of-a-kind camp experience.

    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “Camp ELSO provides culturally-specific outdoor science camps, leadership development, and community-centered programs that empower children of color to Experience Life Science Outdoors (ELSO). Our mission is to frame science and place-based education through a lens that centers the stories, individual needs, and lived experiences of Black and Brown communities. The Red Backpack funds will have a strengthening impact during the COVID-19 crisis, ensuring we emerge in a position to continue on a trajectory of growth, authentically serving the communities most affected by this pandemic.”

    — Sprinavasa Brown, Co-Founder of Camp ELSO

    Whitney is healing mind + body with her holistic chiropractic approach.

    Whitney Red Backpack Fund recipient
    Here’s how the grant will make a difference for her business:

    “My main goal is to live a life of love, purpose, and influence. I realize that it is not always so easy for people to realize the greatness that they have stored inside of them, especially if a person is suffering from a physical ailment. This is where my gift comes in, using chiropractic. I will use these funds to invest in new marketing tools that would allow me to connect with new patients differently. I would use video telehealth for taking care of patients and use other video/social marketing methods. Another way I would like to use grant money is to invest in new material for the center.”

    — Whitney Burton, Owner of Perfect Balance Healing Center

With a little help from The Red Backpack Fund, these women are “making magic happen,” as Sara Blakely likes to say. Learn more about The Red Backpack Fund.


Featured Photo: Meet Quinn and Sara, two of the recipients of The Red Backpack Fund by Lucky Ones Coffee

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