At Women's Enterprise Action Loan Fund (WEALF), we help women build successful businesses. We know the process takes more than money; that is why each of our entrepreneurs works with a experienced business woman, a mentor, to turn her business from a startup into a major player in the New York City business landscape. Learn more about our approach, read the success stories of our entrepreneurs below and get involved by donating.
ENTREPRENEURS: GRACE TAPPIN
Grace Tappin A Brooklyn Native has been a long-standing member of the Brooklyn Business community, having opened her business Move with Grace over 12 years ago, offering daily yoga and other classes. When Grace came to the Women’s Enterprise Action Loan Fund in 2012, she wanted funds to complete the work for her juice bar expansion to her Yoga studio and advice to grow her business.
Helping to fund the juice bar was just the beginning of WEALF’s long relationship with Grace. Sarah Frank, Grace’s mentor, has been there to assist, providing guidance on management and business strategy.
In the last several years as Myrtle Avenue has flourished, Grace has continued to upgrade her studio through second and third loans from WEALF. Most recently, Grace relocated to a larger space up the block adding a large juice bar, with an expanded menu including salads, acai and smoothie bowls and more. She branded the store with colorful signage and added retail items to the mix, and provides rental space for the entire wellness community.
Grace is an active member of her community working with local businesses, NYC children, at-risk youth, and seniors. Aspiring entrepreneurs often come to her for advice and motivation due to her longevity in business.
Her Words: In an interview in Myrtle Avenue Partnership newspaper Grace explained her philosophy, “My parents migrated to this country and were able to give their children the best education possible. I built this business to take the baton and create a foundation for my future children and generations. Movement, music and yoga is very important to me, but representation in a community that was once left behind and bringing together two different worlds to a common ground is the icing on the cake. The learning in yoga is endless and the information we share about healthy foods often stays without clients for a long time. We are changing lives and changing the way business is done by making the community individuals not just feel, but to BE apart of the whole. Finding mentors in Business is rare and I will always be grateful for WEALF's mentors and their willingness to share their great wealth and experience with women who are just beginning their business journey.
ENTREPRENEURS: MISSY KOO & STACY COLE
Pigs in a blanket are America's favorite hors d'oeuvre and never before have two women been more passionate about making them better.... way better. Missy Koo and Stacy Cole founded Brooklyn Piggies in 2012, determined to elevate the standard version of the cocktail frank wrapped in a crescent role. They worked with a top sausage purveyor to develop a variety of flavors: Original, Spicy, Chicken and Veggie. They wrapped their sausages in a light and flaky puff pastry, creating a pig in a blanket that is parallel to none.
Brooklyn Piggies were initially sold at an outdoor food market in Brooklyn. Their Piggies were an immediate hit and they quickly grew to sell via an online platform and to wholesale/foodservice customers. Soon after their launch, Brooklyn Piggies gained nationwide popularity after being named as Oprah’s Favorite Things and were also featured on NBC's Today’s Show.
Missy and Stacy caught the attention of WEALF in 2012, upon recommendation from Kathrine Gregory, from the ESpace Incubator kitchen where they initially hand rolled their Piggies. Since their first loan in 2012, WEALF has continued to support Brooklyn Piggies as mentors and loan providers, having offered three subsequent loans in support of business growth. We have seen Missy and Stacy grow as businesswomen as they gained experience and transitioned their business from startup to scaled production with nationwide distribution. Most recently, Brooklyn Piggies created an exclusive Piggie for QVC. This all beef sausage stuffed with Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese was an instant hit, selling out in just minutes of it's premier.
Their Words... “Words cannot express the gratitude we hold for the WEALF Fund and it's group of smart and savvy mentors and financial support. Having the guidance of the mentors, who are always accessible to offer clarity and insight to the varied challenges that have arisen on our journey, has proven pivotal for our success. The mentors are highly educated, experienced professionals who understand the specific challenges women face growing their businesses. Meeting the other business owners has fueled a strong sense of community, wherein we learn from each other and share strategies - though our businesses are varied, our challenges are universal. Thanks WEALF for seeing our potential and supporting our growth!!!!”
ENTREpreneur: ANA BIANCHI
Ana Bianchi launched PaperGirl Collection in 2015, a clothing line for little girls 9 months to 7 - 8 years old. The collections are sold in select boutiques and online at PaperGirlCollection.com shipping to moms around the world. PaperGirl Collection has also been featured in department stores like Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Neiman Marcus nationwide. Recently, as a way to express her view around living creatively, at home and with her creative business, Ana has started a lifestyle blog OurIllustratedLife.com
Ana designs the dresses in silhouettes that combine classic styles from her childhood with modern simplicity. Combining her love of drawing with her dress designs, she created artwork for all the fabrics used for the dresses, which is custom printed on 100% cotton. All dresses include a storybook and the prints on the fabric match the story. Cute companion toys, framed wall art, wall paper and decal mural are available (special request) to extend the artwork and imaginative story-telling beyond the dresses into the little girls’ rooms.
Late this Summer two of her storybooks will be published by Gingko Press. “The Sailor who loved to draw” and “The Swimmers: making paper-cutouts like Matisse” will be available as hardcover books in bookstores and museum gift shops. Preorder at PaperGirlCollection.com will start in May.
Her Words ...“Having the mentors of WEALF at my side has been like having a group of smart and wise fairy godmothers. They are always knowledgeable and thorough with how-to questions, kind when delivering advise -even when it is about something going wrong in the business- and, above all, truly supportive all along the way "
Entrepreneur: Annabelle Santos
Manufacturer of olive oil beauty care products for skin, body and hair. WEALF provided an initial interest-free $5,000 loan and a mentor. Her mentor helped Annabelle with label and branding issues, as well as general business guidance utilizing the talents of several different WEALF advisors. As Annabelle grew her business, WEALF provided additional loans and helped her secure a loan from the Business Center for New Americans. In addition, WEALF redesigned the Spadét website to reflect the uniqueness of her products and make the site user-friendly.
As a minority business owner, Annabelle became certified as a vendor to New York City and New York State. This has led to significant supply agreements with several major educational institutions. Annabelle is now exploring other contracts. Recently, Spadét products debuted in Whole Foods new Harlem location. Annabelle is one of the winners of the prestigious American Entrepreneurship Award for 2017.
Her Words… "Thank you very much for the various ways you have supported me as an entrepreneur. WEALF has provided me with the mentorship, guidance and financial support to grow quickly. I am filled with gratitude and hope knowing that there are organizations like WEALF that are committed to helping women entrepreneurs. It is my goal to succeed and build an empire that serves many, not only my customers and the environment, but also other entrepreneurs who can benefit from my experiences.”
ENTREPRENEURS: JENNIFER FIORE & NINA LALLI
Unique, handmade pottery
Jennifer and Nina met in a Brooklyn pottery class, and decided to work together to build a business. Unlike many who seek WEALF assistance for financing to expand and grow, MONDAYS had a unique problem … demand that they could not fill.
WEALF mentors taught Jennifer and Nina how to record their income and expenses and to better manage their cash flow and profit margins. Both Jennifer and Nina work two jobs to support themselves so mentors helped them with time management. They hired interns and began paying them hourly, allowing them to focus on the more creative aspects of their business like designing higher margin items while assistants mix glazes or roll out clay slabs. Jennifer and Nina supply the dishes for 4 star restaurants like Blue Hill at Stone Barns and trays for the society cater Great Expectations. They also have their designer pieces in select boutiques.
Their Words... "We have received three WEALF loans in the past three years--each has come at a pivotal moment in our business and helped us to grow at a rate that would not have been possible without this support. Obviously, the money has been crucial, but it would be meaningless without the mentorship and this network of inspiring women who truly want us to succeed, too. In these three years we’ve doubled our sales.
The tough love and financial advice we have received from Vicki Weiner and our mentor Susan Ulin, helped us to understand how to track our finances so we could determine which aspects of our business were actually profitable. They challenged us to think about our production in ways we hadn’t considered, and consequently we have started to shift into a more high-end market. An ancillary benefit of this is that we are making work that excites us more creatively. The women of WEALF have never tried to change who we are, never made suggestions that would veer us towards a business model that might make more money, but not be true to our passion. They have believed that our unique, handmade work has a market that can support us—and convinced us of that in the moments when we’ve doubted it."
ENTREpreneur: Roshanak yousefian
Roshanak Yousefian created and owns Popilee Patisserie, a NYC-based patisserie specializing in authentic handmade Persian sweets. Her love for the culinary arts started early as a young girl in her aunt’s kitchen in Mazandaran, Iran. Popilee grew out of her desire to combine her passion for cooking with her desire to preserve and share the exquisite cuisine of Iran with others. For Roshanak, baking is a work of art, with each pastry made lovingly by hand, with the finest organic and traditional ingredients. Today, her pastries fill the "sofreh-aghd" of Manhattan weddings as well as the dessert tables of private events throughout her city. Popilee continues to expand, now catering all-things Persian. Her appetizers have recently adorned the dinner tables of events throughout New York including the annual Noruz at the Met gala held at the Temple of Dendur.
Her Words... "I know the value of good mentorship first hand and owe the success of Popilee to my advisers from the Women’s Enterprise Action Loan Fund who encouraged me to focus on authentic Persian cooking and build my business to fill an unmet niche."