Lingerie brands continue to give back.
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, cofounder 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.
Intimates brand Wacoal America, ThirdLove and Uniqlo USA, part of Fast Retailing, donated bras, underwear and other innerwear basics to medical workers in honor of National Nurses’ Week in May.