Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of Spanx Inc., announced that she is donating $5 million to female entrepreneurs whose businesses have been impacted by coronavirus.
Thanks to Blakely, 1,000 women-owned small businesses will get a cash infusion of $5,000 each.
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“My hope is that this gift will help alleviate some of the pressures caused by this horrible pandemic,” Blakely said in an Instagram post. “I know first hand what it’s like to be a small business owner. As a woman it can be lonely and scary, especially during a time like this. Small business is the backbone of our culture and I want to help.”
She has teamed up with charitable arm GlobalGiving and dubbed the donation the “Red Backpack Fund” in homage to her “lucky” red backpack she had since college and wore when she started Spanx, which is located in Atlanta. It is one of the few “unicorn” companies started by a woman that is valued at $1 billion.
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Along with the funds, each recipient will receive her own red backpack as well as an all-access annual pass to MasterClass, an online education platform based in San Francisco for which Blakely teaches a class on entrepreneurship.
Applications will be open for the next five months. In order to qualify, businesses have to be at least 51% majority-women owned, with annual revenues not exceeding $5 million in any of the last three years. Owners must have withheld payroll taxes for one additional employee besides themselves, be registered as a legal entity and have a valid EIN number, and employ fewer than 50 people.
Blakely joins other efforts to help women-owned businesses.
SheaMoisture also launched its own relief fund to support women of color entrepreneurs who are struggling during the Covid-19 crisis. The hair-care brand announced it would select 10 businesses to receive $10,000 each.
Digital platform Hello Alice has been awarding emergency grants of $10,000 each to a limited number of small businesses, and its founders hope to grow the initiative. The ventures must have fewer than 50 employees and be registered in the U.S. to qualify for the funds.
[Related: Hello Alice Offers $10,000 Emergency Grants for Small Businesses Affected by Coronavirus]