Below Red Letter Grant recipients share their feedback on how the RLG impacted their business and offered a leg-up through the start-up phase and beyond.
Hive & Hollow
When I began to dream up plans for a sustainable flower shop, my vision, as an artist, was all over the map. Though I had decades of experience as a florist in various capacities, the myriad details that go into opening a retail shop felt daunting.
Since being awarded the grant, I have been surprised by how many times I have been asked what it is like to open a business as a woman, which usually makes me laugh, as I wouldn’t know what it is like any other way. But I do know that the deck is stacked against women, especially in rural communities like my own, and so I found sitting in front of the judging panel of smart, fearless, successful women both humbling and inspiring.
The process of applying for the Red Letter Grant forced me to hone in on my vision, set realistic goals and make a viable business plan. Beyond the monetary assistance the grant provided - which empowered me to hire a local artist team to design my logo and a UW Stout graduate to build my website - the community of expertise that has been available to me from the beginning has been invaluable. Any question I have about the nitty gritty of being a small business owner is answered within minutes by people I trust who have a vested interest in my success. This sort of community building in immeasurable, and it has impacted how I envision paying success forward within my community.
(Sarah Lambert Freeman opened Hive & Hollow, a full service floral shop with a focus on sustainability in Menomonie, in September 2018. The shop embraces the slow flower movement, promoting local flower farmers and fair trade growers. Unique and beautiful gifts are sourced from independent local makers. Stop by or visit her website www.hiveandhollow.earth)
We applied for the Red Letter Grant twice. The first time, we had only been "in business” a few months - our experience amounted to hosting a book club and setting up a few pop-up shops around the community. We had big dreams and saw the grant as an opportunity to put together a business plan for our dream bookshop. While we didn’t win, we learned so much, and we were inspired by the community of women that was beginning to form around the grant.
When we applied the second time, we had been running pop-up shops for about a year and had learned so much. We had a better picture of what our numbers looked like, and we also had more realistic goals about what we wanted our next steps to be.
We were awarded the Red Letter Grant in Spring of 2018, and after we won, the feedback and support that we received helped to encouraged us to stretch ourselves and start looking for physical retail spaces. As a result, we found our space on the East Side Hill of Eau Claire, and were able to afford initial rental expenses. While the monetary reward of the grant was obviously very important in taking that step, the community that we joined is by far the greatest gift we received from the Red Letter Grant. It is amazing to join a group of women that is already rooting for you to succeed, and is willing to help in ways large and small. We hope to continue to contribute to this community and to the Chippewa Valley in meaningful ways that reflect the generosity that has been shared with us from the beginning of our bookshop journey.
(Margaret Leonard and Jill Heinke-Moen are the faces behind the curated selection at Dotters Books, learn more about their shop, events + offerings.)
Odd Brand Strategy
We were so fortunate to have received one of the first-ever Red Letter Grants, and so honored to have been in the running along with many other amazing women-owned businesses. The application process was a great exercise for us in how to analyze our business model and structure, and the interview process gave us an opportunity to talk about our business within a professional setting. After being awarded one of the grants, the judges offered very necessary feedback on what we could do to improve our business plan, reach out to new clients, etc. which we have taken to heart.
The Red Letter Grant is such an amazing program, and a great opportunity for female-identifying small businesses owners to get a jumpstart on bringing their visions to life. Not only is this grant financially helpful, but the feedback after the process was so important in guiding us in the right direction. They have continued to follow up periodically since our launch which is great to make sure we’re still on the right path. We really couldn’t be thankful enough for the support of the Red Letter Grant, and look forward to seeing it’s success! Learn more about Odd Brand Strategy.
As a recipient of the Red Letter Grant through Becca’s leadership, my business, Melnaturel, has seen tremendous growth and success. The grant submission, implementation and review process was inspiring and rewarding in so many ways - beyond just monetary reasons. Becca met with me individually after I received the grant to give me all of the feedback she and the judges gathered.
Since that day I have been able to hit the ground running and have been running ever since. Her candid conversations and advice have helped me grow professionally as a business owner in ways I never thought imaginable as a first-time business owner who hasn’t hit the one-year mark.
My sales have increased significantly, I’ve received lots of amazing recognition, and I’ve been able to expand into the wholesale market. Much of my success can be attributed to her counsel and the confidence she had in me and my business. Without her guiding push and inspiration, I’m not sure where’d I’d be. Learn more about Melnaturel.
Giizhig Design Company
The Red Letter Grant literally changed my life. When I heard about it, something sparked in me and I began to take steps to transform a daydream into reality. I spent the next several months researching and building my business plan, a process that forced me to consider all of the small details that seem mundane but are actually essential in starting a business. Eventually, months of tweaking my plan and deciding how to fulfill my overall goals brought me the night of presentations in front of the judging panel. Sure, there were nerves, but all of the work that I had done prepared me and I just explained why I was so passionate about what I wanted to do.
Being awarded the grant was a complete honor and it has helped in so many ways. The grant not only covered all of the start up costs for Giizhig Design Company, but it also gave me motivation to step out of my comfort zone, introduced me to a network of caring and empowering women, and gave my business exposure that most struggle greatly for in the beginning. Now, I can proudly say that I am an Indigenous business owner. One of the best parts is that I’m surrounded by supportive mentors willing to lend advice whenever it’s needed. The Red Letter Grant is truly shifting the environment for women entrepreneurs and it’s going to have a huge impact for many years to come. Learn more about Giizhig Design Company.
“Now, I can proudly say that I am an Indigenous business owner. One of the best parts is that I’m surrounded by supportive mentors willing to lend advice whenever it’s needed."
— Brittany Tainter
Opening Moonrise Aerials was a dream come true for Michelle and I. Aerial & circus arts is one of my passions that has brought me so much confidence and happiness; Michelle and I really wanted to share this art with other women in the Chippewa Valley by offering classes. We started out small and grew organically with the help of this grant. The Red Letter Grant application process was such a wonderful experience, helping us to get valuable feedback and support from fellow female business owners. Listening to the other business owners' presentations was so inspiring--there are so many creative, smart ladies in the Chippewa Valley! We were overjoyed when we found out that we won.
Michelle had applied for the Red Letter Grant previously and we found the judge's panel's feedback and advice incredibly useful. This grant also has created a sense of community among local female business owners--we've actually partnered with several of the other Red Letter Grant affiliated businesses to offer unique, collaborative promotions. Additionally, the financial support of the grant and the donations from Ambient Inks and Volume One allowed us to invest in additional equipment, merchandise, and advertising. The exposure is amazing too! Learn more about Moonrise Aerials.
-Rachel Duffenbach, co-owner of Moonrise Aerials