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$5K Startup Grant for Black Women

2021 Applications Closed.

The Why

We're small, but we’re here to make a big impact. We took $5,000 out of our savings to turn the initial idea of Pepper into a successfully funded Kickstarter project. Rather than adopting a growth-at-all-costs mentality that usually requires raising VC capital from the very beginning, we hustled for as long as possible so that we could grow our community the way we wanted. Now, we’re giving that $5,000 back every year in the form of a free grant. But that’s not all: in addition to the grant, we are also committed to providing access to our own networks and mentorship opportunities.

The Pepper Startup Grant is specifically for Black women business owners, a dynamic group that has been systematically disenfranchised when seeking to acquire the necessary venture capital funding to expand their businesses. We’re here to change that.

Pepper was inspired by a passion to change industry standards for women who are overlooked in the bra industry, now we want to help underrepresented Black entrepreneurs to kick start their business, in their own way.

WorldGirls founders

WorldGirls is on mission is to teach children to celebrate one another and discover their unique gifts and talents to make the world a better place. WorldGirls is starting with a collection of diverse 18" dolls that represent different backgrounds, and the dolls' passions rather than their looks.

Carlissa and Laken King are identical twins who have always had a passion for kids, education and equity and innovation. After winning their college's first social innovation pitch competition, they decided to start working towards their Worldgirls dream and haven't looked back since. Learn more about WorldGirls.


The Program

One recipient will receive a zero strings attached $5K financial grant and the following benefits:

  • Mentorship calls with the founders of Pepper
  • Dedicated promotion on Pepper’s social media accounts
  • Access to consultations with experts in legal, fundraising, finance, marketing, and relevant fields as needed, to address your specific needs

We’re excited to partner with Startup Girl Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit venture capital fund investing in female founders to administer the grant.


Find out if you're eligible:

  • Business in any industry
  • At least 51% of the business must be owned, controlled or operated and managed by Black or African-American, female or non-binary identifying owner(s)
  • At least 18 years old
  • U.S resident, and your business must have U.S legal entity (i.e C-Corp, S-Corp, LLC, Sole Proprietorship, Partnership)
  • Early stage business with less than $500K in external equity financing raised


Applications closed on August 6, 2021 11:59pm MT.
Five semi-finalists will be announced by September 17, 2021 via email.

Read T&C's


For more information please email

How many grants will be awarded? One grant will be awarded per year

Do I have to pay back the grant? Nope!

When is the deadline to apply? August 6, 2021 11:59pm MT

Are there requirements for how recipients need to spend the funds? No, as long as it's business related

What is the selection proccess? Our selection committee consists of Pepper founders Jaclyn Fu and Lia Winograd, and Startup Girl Foundation founder Shilpa Yarlagadda. The selection committee will select three finalists by September 17, 2021. Finalists will be asked to submit a short video that will be used to select the final grant recipient winner.

What is the selection criteria? The committee reviews all applications submitted within the period and judges each application based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrates passion and creativity for solving the specific problem (40%)
  • Demonstrates viable business opportunity with clear plans (30%)
  • Demonstrates financial need (20%)
  • Ability for Pepper to support and add value (10%)

Will my competitive business and financial information be kept confidential? Definitely! Your application will only be seen by the selection committee.

What will benefits with recipients receive in addition to the financial grant? Grant recipients can also receive introductions to relevant funding opportunities, including being presented to the Startup Girl Foundation investment team, workshops and consultations with experts in various fields as needed such as PR, legal, finance, customer service etc, monthly mentorship calls with Pepper founders, promotion on Pepper’s social media accounts.

What is Startup Girl Foundation? Pepper is working with Startup Girl Foundation, a 501(c)(3) entity, to administer the grant. Startup Girl Foundation is a nonprofit venture capital fund investing in female founders through profits from Shiffon Co. Startup Girl Foundation's founder, Shilpa Yarlagadda, was also Pepper’s first female investor!

Where can I find the official terms and conditions?

Where can I find the application? Applications are now closed for 2021