African-inspired activewear, a tea brand designed to help improve mental health, and a nutrition care business are amongst the women-owned Australian small businesses that will each receive $10,000 grants as the first local winners of Visa’s She’s Next Grant Program.
Ten shortlisted women-owned small businesses in the categories of women’s economic equality and health, wellbeing, and the care economy were invited to pitch their business growth plans for a share in $65,000 worth of grants from Visa, Global Sisters and the Accelerator for Enterprising Women.
Last week, three winners, New South Wales business FRIKA Activewear, South Australia-based Pod Dietetics, and New Zealand-based Better Tea Co., each received grants of $10,000, while the seven runners-up received $5,000 each.
FIRKA Activewear was founded in 2021 by Alies Bol after her family moved from Sudan when she was 14. She started her African-inspired leisurewear business after finding it difficult to buy clothes featuring the colourful prints of her home country.
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Self-taught in design and fashion, Bol learnt all she could at the library after work and eventually launched her own line during COVID. Bol works on her business around her job in a warehouse and sells her designs via social media and Global Sisters Marketplace.
Bol told SmartCompany she is both “overwhelmed and excited” to win the Visa She’s Next Grant Program.
“I honestly don’t even know where to begin … Winning the Visa She’s Next Grant Program has opened a door for my business that I have been searching for, for many years,” she says.
“I have been searching for one opportunity and I have finally found it. A chance to grow my business and share it with the world.”
Bol says the program is vital for women who run their own small businesses.
“Starting a business is not easy at all, especially when they don’t have the right support or enough funding,” she says.
“Programs like this give women financial independence, not only for them but for other families by providing them with job opportunities.
“Above all, they are bringing a change to their community by attending to their needs through their small business, which I believe are started because they wanted to make a change.”
Bol says the program, and the cash grant, has already helped her with her business.
“I will be able to finalise things that I have put on hold due to not being able to afford them as I usually would have to save up for a while just to get things done or to order more products,” she explains.
“Also, having exposure like this one from SmartCompany and also social media exposure.
“The future for FRIKA Activewear is promising, as I will be able to finalise my website, expand my product range and prepare for the summer collection soon.”
Currently, Bol is preparing for the launch of her winter collection and working with a graphic designer, she is creating a new line of t-shirts.
The She’s Next Grant Program is a global initiative that has come to Australia and New Zealand for the first time and supports women entrepreneurs to run, fund and grow their businesses.